The Pompey legends moulding stars of tomorrow

Paul Hardyman playing for Pompey back in 1987. PICTURE: B0678-8 1987
Paul Hardyman playing for Pompey back in 1987. PICTURE: B0678-8 1987

They are a legendary line-up – a who’s who of modern-day Pompey heroes with more than 1,000 matches between them.

What’s more, they are coaching the next generation of Blues youngsters hoping to follow in their illustrious footsteps.

The Fratton Park Academy set-up is these days like a stroll down memory lane.

Headed by Andy Awford, the revamped and improved youth system also boasts Paul Hardyman as his assistant.

Then there is senior Academy coach Alan McLoughlin as well as youth coach Mark Kelly.

Finally, a certain Guy Whittingham will be lending his considerable expertise on occasions to the club’s promising youngsters.

The quintet totalled 1,117 games and scored 187 goals during their Pompey playing years.

In addition, they boast 57 international caps between them – from under-21 level to senior.

It is a staggeringly rich array of talent the club possesses to hone the promising youngsters on the club’s books.

And if that wasn’t impressive enough, this season will see the introduction of specialised coaching, with each taking sessions based on their respective positions.

Whittingham coaching the forwards, Awford teaching the central defenders, McLoughlin tutoring the central midfielders and Kelly focusing on the wingers.

Then there is Hardyman, the former England-under 21 international who is going to take the full-backs. And the ex-Sunderland defender is convinced the existing set-up is tailor-made to bring out the best in the promising youngsters.

Hardyman said: ‘We are going to do specific coaching in the coming season.

‘Andy Awford, Alan McLoughlin, Guy Whittingham, Mark Kelly and me taking the kids – you cannot have any better set up than that anywhere in the country.

‘If you added up the league games and international caps no club could rival us for that.

‘We have always had goalkeepers put aside and go to their individual coaches because it is a specialised position. So why not other positions?

‘In the past we have done it slightly with Awfs taking the central midfielders and me taking centre forwards.

‘Now we have got these people on hand to provide something we are really skilled at which can help develop youngsters and we feel that is the way forward.

‘We can all split and take our own respective positions. There will be nice little groups of 6-8 players in each group and these youngsters will get some really detailed quality coaching.

‘Guy will one night a week take the centre forwards. Can you imagine that? Someone with the career record of Guy Whittingham coaching young strikers how to make the most of their talents.

‘John Keeley also helps with the Academy at times. Although they are first-team coaches they are still keen to come across and assist with the youngsters.

‘I would like to think kids will pick up a lot of knowledge from those coaching sessions and that can only be a good thing.’

Awford returned to Fratton Park in January 2011 to take over from Paul Smalley as Academy manager.

His first act was to bring in Hardyman as his assistant and since then they have overseen a notable improvement in the existing youth set-up.

Ashley Harris and Adam Webster both made their first-team debuts last term, while Sam Magri was involved in the squad on a number of occasions.

It has been achieved with the backdrop of administration and financial cutbacks of Academy resources.

And Hardyman is proud how their side of the club is continuing to fight strong and produce results.

He added: ‘It is always going to be tough because of the club’s situation.

‘Despite it all, though, the spirit at the club is good, it really is. There is a sense of people want to achieve things here.

‘As coaches, we believe we all have the same philosophy about where we want to go with it and hopefully we can continue producing these lads.’