Champions prove the future is bright

The Pompey Academy team and management set-up proudly pose with the Football League Youth Alliance championship trophy they won on a dramatic last day of the season with victory against Luton
The Pompey Academy team and management set-up proudly pose with the Football League Youth Alliance championship trophy they won on a dramatic last day of the season with victory against Luton

Pompey’s next wave of talent are ready to step up after their dramatic last-day title victory.

The Blues’ Academy’s under-18 side recently delivered the Football League Youth Alliance crown on a dramatic final day.

A thrilling 4-2 win over Luton saw the young guns lift the title ahead of their opponents and Leyton Orient.

A goal-of-the-season contender from Jae Heon Kim among his two-goal haul, plus efforts from Brandon Haunstrap and Conor Chaplin, paved the way for the championship to come to Fratton Park.

That was after a nervy wait on the final whistle to ensure the result between rivals Orient and Watford went the right way for the youngsters.

It was a victory which underlined the quality emerging from the Academy’s conveyor belt of talent.

Coach Paul Hardyman believes that has been seen by their success and the flow of players into the first-team set-up.

A number of the current squad will now be hoping to follow the likes of Dan Butler, Adam Webster, Jed Wallace, Jack Maloney and Ashley Harris into the senior picture via the development squad.

Hardyman believes the future is looking brighter than ever at youth level, as Pompey look to build from within.

He said: ‘We’re proud of what the boys have achieved.

‘It was a great occasion for them to win the title.

‘We had a late change of goalkeeper, who came in and did well.

‘We went 1-0 down but were 4-1 up by half-time.

‘The lads were very professional after that and didn’t let Luton pick up a head of steam. We kept the ball well and saw the game out.

‘It was like Manchester City and Manchester United at the end of last season on the final whistle.

‘There was a lot of jubilation when we announced it to the boys. There were parents and friends all joining in, too.

‘Seeing the boys go on the pitch at half-time during the Sheffield United game will live long in the memory.

‘To hear the Fratton End singing “campeones” to them was a special moment.

‘It was exciting for the boys going into the last day knowing they could win something.

‘Throughout your playing career you don’t often get a chance to win things.

‘In League Two and League One you have the league and three trophies.

‘Winning the FA Cup or Capital One Cup is a long shot, so you start the season with a chance of winning the league or Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.

‘So when you have a chance of winning something you really have to go for it. Fortunately, the boys produced.’

The Academy’s success has been measured by the number of players who have graduated into the first-team picture.

Harris, Webster, Nick Awford, Maloney, Bradley Tarbuck, Butler, Wallace, Dan Thompson, George Colson and Alex Grant are all homegrown talents who have seen competitive senior minutes this season.

And Jae Heon, Harry Medway, Lewis Horsburgh, Liam Triggs and Jack Whatmough grabbed playing time against IBV in Hermann Hreidarsson’s charity match last month.

Hardyman said: ‘You can judge the succeess of the Academy by the amount of players in the first team.

‘The first team finished the last game of the season with five Academy products on the pitch. Six if you count Shaun Cooper.

‘If you get one player a year through to the first team you are doing well.

‘So to get all of them through, like we have, is a great achievement.

‘We’re not kidding ourselves that some of that hasn’t been out of necessity.

‘But the players have stepped up and shown they can do it.’