YOAN Zouma will be handed a starting spot at Portsmouth tomorrow – provided he can show Keith Hill he can be trusted.

The French youngster came in for criticism after the 1-1 draw at Sunderland for conceding a late penalty but has responded well in training, and now sits in pole position to replace the injured Jake Wright at Fratton Park.

Keith Hill has stood by his decision to pull-up the 21-year-old for a handball and though Adam Senior and Jordan Boon could yet force their way into his thinking, Zouma’s reaction has pleased the Bolton boss.

“It’s still early and they are different characters,” he told The Bolton News. “But I have had a great response all week from Zouma. We were wondering which way he was going to go.

“I am honest with players, so is Dave (Flitcroft), and we expect more from him. He has got the X factor but he has to be a player that his team-mates, his manager and the supporters can trust.

“If I can trust young players to play the right way and they make mistakes doing that, then they get my blessing, my backing and they’ll always get my honest appraisal.

“Sometimes I am telling players things that their family and friends are not prepared to tell them, that’s the harsh reality of being a manager and a footballer.

“He is learning, he has done well, and so have some of the others.”

Hill has also spoken frankly this week about his concerns about the technical ability of some of the younger players at his disposal, suggesting they needed to spend more time playing football and less time in the gym.

“You have to be able to accept criticism,” he said. “You have to channel it the right way.

“As long as things are constructive. We are not trying to break players – it is meant as a learning tool.

“We are open-minded and we talk freely with players about how they can improve. We have done it all our careers and we’ll continue at Bolton.

“The players are embracing what we are trying to deliver but they have got to show that now with matchday performances.”