Appy kick-starts his Pompey youth vision

Adam Webster in Pompey first-team training. Picture: Malcolm Wells (120294-0269)
Adam Webster in Pompey first-team training. Picture: Malcolm Wells (120294-0269)

Pompey are to reintroduce a development squad next season as Michael Appleton’s rebuilding gets under way.

The concept was disbanded, along with the reserve squad, the previous time the club entered administration in 2010.

Formerly, both were overseen by current first-team coach Guy Whittingham.

Now the development squad is returning for next season as Appleton seeks to create a crucial buffer between the Academy and the first team.

The Blues boss wants to accommodate a pool of players aged 18-23 who are effectively beyond Academy football.

The group will then be given a fixture programme and specialist coaching to help mould them into first-team contenders.

Appleton is seeking the development squad to play around 12 matches a season – although, these will be friendlies rather than league games.

A coach will also be appointed to head the set-up, with the identity still to be finalised.

It represents the first step of Appleton’s vision as he looks to overhaul Pompey and introduce a successful playing infrastructure.

He said: ‘This is a positive move by the football club.

‘We want to rebuild this club from top to bottom.

‘Having a development group will certainly give you a better opportunity to produce your own players rather than having to take players from other clubs.

‘There’s a little bit out of my first-team budget gone into it but it was something I definitely wanted to put into place.

‘To be fair to (administrator) Trevor Birch, he has also backed me on this, which I really appreciate.

‘I wanted to look at the infrastructure and not only having an Academy in place but also a development squad.

‘What we have got to realise is that this gives more competition throughout the football club and will aid development.

‘I want players from the Academy going into the development group because they are ready and then looking to get into the first-team squad and being built up for that.

‘There will be friendlies with local teams. We have not got an exact figure in our head.

‘Twelve games maybe, at least a couple a month.

‘And it will be headed by somebody we have still to appoint. That process is currently on-going.

‘This will just give the young players at the club a better opportunity to show or prove they are capable of being in the first-team squad.’

Home-grown duo Adam Webster and Ashley Harris both featured for Appleton’s team this season.

In addition, Academy youngsters Sam Magri, Jed Wallace and Alex Grant were unused substitutes.

Yet, on occasions, Webster and Magri missed out on matches for the Academy while serving as unused substitutes in the first-team squad.

That absence of game time for developing players has been a concern to the coaching staff – particularly with there no longer being reserve-team football.

In the meantime, the first team played just two friendlies during the season – one of which being the rearranged Real Betis fixture.

Having worked in a variety of roles in West Brom’s youth set-up over the years, Appleton has been determined to make changes at Fratton Park.

And Trevor Birch has applauded the move.

Birch added: ‘Michael has been very keen on introducing this and I think it is something which is a must.

‘That is the way we have got to go and will help young lads coming through.

‘I am a big believer in development squads and putting this system in place can only be beneficial to the club.

‘It’s about the future of the club and putting things into place which can help it in the long term.’