Appy ready to call on Pompey starlets

Jed Wallace in Pompey first-team training   Picture: Malcolm Wells (120294-267)
Jed Wallace in Pompey first-team training Picture: Malcolm Wells (120294-267)

The prodigious talent contained on Pompey’s bench averaged 18 years and 79 days for the Championship farewell.

Now Michael Appleton is seeking to build an exciting future with his Blues players of tomorrow.

Pompey’s manager has long stressed the importance of the club’s foundation being built on home-grown youngsters.

The likes of Ashley Harris and Adam Webster were given first-team opportunities at various stages this season.

Sam Magri has also been in the frame of late, making the match-day squad of 16 in five of the past six matches.

For the season finale against Nottingham Forest, Alex Grant and Jed Wallace joined Webster and Magri among the substitutes.

Throw in 22-year-old Marko Futacs, and there was a fresh-faced feel to Appleton’s bench at the City Ground.

There is clearly an impressive crop of youngsters emerging at present through the Academy set-up masterminded by Andy Awford and Paul Hardyman.

Goalkeeper Matt Gledhill and midfielder James Jennings are among those who have not been offered professional terms at the end of the campaign.

In addition, Irish striker Carl Walshe has been released after 12 months as a first-year pro.

However, plenty of others are seen very much as part of Pompey’s future.

With the anticipated exodus of first-team players this summer, the focus will be predominantly on youth to replace them.

And Appleton is eager to reconstruct the club around his youngsters’ undoubted potential.

He said: ‘If we can get one or two more of the likes of Harris, Magri and Webster, then that would be good and decent for the future of the club.

‘What I have got to do is put my trust in Andy Awford and Paul Hardyman because I haven’t had an opportunity to see that much of the under-18s other than when they have been in the youth cup or out there training.

‘That is why you employ Academy managers and youth-team coaches. You put your trust in them.

‘Every time I need two or three players or they think someone is doing well, they get them sent up to me to get them joining in with the first-team boys.

‘If I think they are good enough they will stay in there. If not, they will go back down with Andy.

‘I would love to have an opportunity to have a three, four or five-year plan and a real structure in place for a properly-run Academy.

‘I am looking to delve even more into that and get more of an involvement.

‘There has to be a starting point and I don’t think we are really at that starting point, to be honest.

‘There has to be something in place, a plan. It’s easy to just let things happen and run their course over time but you have got to have a proper structure in place, that’s your starting point.

‘It ends up being an elevator or conveyor belt and we did that when I was at West Brom.’

Magri, Wallace and Grant are still awaiting their first-team debuts, although the likelihood is that will come in the not-too distant future.

Forward Harris started the last two matches of the season, making five appearances in total, having been fast-tracked into the first-team set-up by Appleton.

As for defender Webster, he made three appearances, although dropped back down to the Academy for precious game time towards the end of the campaign.

And the Blues boss has every intention of giving opportunities to the club’s brightest young talent.

Appleton added: ‘You can have as much talent as you want but they need to go into the first team and handle the first-team scenario and situation.

‘That part is just down to personalities and whether they can cope with the strains of first-team play.

‘We want to continue to get talent into the football club so they can take it on to the first-team level and have the opportunity to develop.

‘Then it is up to them whether they sink or swim.’