New Academy crop will get Pompey chance

Setting an example: Pompey defender Dan Butler   Picture: Barry Zee
Setting an example: Pompey defender Dan Butler Picture: Barry Zee

Guy Whittingham has pledged to keep the first-team door wide open for the latest crop of Academy products.

Pompey have offered first-year professional terms to Josh Warren, Jack Maloney, Nick Awford, George Branford and Liam Triggs.

The quintet are the latest to emerge from the Academy set-up which has proved so prolific under the stewardship of Andy Awford and Paul Hardyman in recent times.

The starlets have plenty of footsteps to follow in, with Dan Butler, Jed Wallace and Ashley Harris the intake from last year who flourished in Whittingham’s set-up.

Maloney and Awford have already had their taste with fleeting first-team appearances towards the end of last term.

In addition, Adam Webster is from the same age group and trailblazed ahead of his colleagues to become part of the first-team squad long ago.

The development group will tomorrow join the first team for the start of pre-season tests. And so begins another circle of promising youngsters looking to make their mark.

Whittingham said: ‘The development group is one less than last year, but it is important you give these young kids who you think are good enough at least another year to prove it.

‘They need another year to mature as people, let alone as footballers, to see how they take to first-team training and the environment.

‘I know them a little bit. Being in and around them for a couple of years you get to know the characters and what they are like.

‘However, I don’t think you can ever tell if they are going to make it until you see it.

‘Certainly we saw Maloney and Awford coming on and being involved in training towards the end of last year. They can handle it a little bit.

‘But when we step it up this year let’s see where we are.

‘With Butler and Wallace we were forced into a situation last year and could have gone out and signed a couple of free transfers at the end of January but kept them on to see if they were good enough.

‘It’s important we do that this year with these five rather than going out and getting players from other clubs.

‘We have got to give these a chance to see if they are good enough for the first team.

‘There’s a centre-half, two central midfielders, a full-back and a wide man, probably what we haven’t got in that age group is an out-and-out striker but you can’t have it all.

‘We will look at them, though.’

Whittingham will once again be seeking to send out members of the development group on loan.

He will also look to arrange a number of competitive matches against corresponding club teams and local sides.

He added: ‘For me, loaning players is the original plan because it worked so well last year.

‘I think it’s a good route to go down and one that has worked before so why not try it again?

‘The plan last season was to have them with us for two or three months before Christmas, then to put them out on loan, which worked.

‘Obviously after November we didn’t get as many games in here as we would have liked, but this year we are a bit more stable.

‘There will be a mixture of first-team squad players who aren’t getting games, there will be the development group and there will be the second year and first-year scholars – if they are good enough – who we will mix into it for a few games.

‘Up to Christmas we had a decent amount of games, then things had to get stripped back and we concentrated on the first team a lot more.

‘There will be plenty more matches this season, though.

‘It will be some other teams’ development groups, it will be local non-league sides. I think it is important they taste all sorts of different types of football.’