Academy can fend off big guns

Kit Symons was part of Pompey's halcyon period of the early 1990s which created a host of homegrown players
Kit Symons was part of Pompey's halcyon period of the early 1990s which created a host of homegrown players

EXCITING young prospects have been told Pompey is still the best place to learn their trade.

And Academy boss, Mark Kelly, believes the ‘opportunity’ of making the grade at Fratton Park can help the Blues fend off the threat of Premier League big guns.

Kelly is certain Pompey can take on the likes of Arsenal, Spurs, Chelsea and Southampton, who are vying for players on the club’s doorstep.

And he feels it’s the realistic chance of playing first-team football which is the trump card for his club.

The Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP), which was accepted by Football League clubs at the end of 2011, means category one sides can now recruit players from any area.

That has created a threat for smaller clubs from bigger rivals, who can grab talent within their vicinity

Kelly feels the chances for young players lie away from the bright lights of powerful outfits, though.

He said: ‘The change of the EPPP means that category one clubs can look anywhere they want in the country.

‘Obviously we have got a lot of London clubs on our door.

‘Portsmouth has always been a good catchment area for kids, anyway, so they come down and have a look.

‘But the objective for us remains the same: Use the inner knowledge of who is in and around our city from different areas, to identify who the kids are and convince them this is the best place to be.

‘To be fair, in the past two or three years we have been quite successful in the younger age groups doing that again.

‘The all-important thing is, with regards to new kids coming in, we are out there identifying the best kids in the area and getting them in at the younger age groups – where we have focused on.

‘It’s the smaller clubs, in my view, who will produce the players over the next 10 years.

‘If you want an opportunity these are the kind of clubs who are going to give you the chance to play.

‘English kids will get more of an opportunity – it’s as simple as that.’

Kelly pinpointed Pompey’s halcyon period of the early 1990s – which created a host of homegrown players – as an example of how they can harvest talent.

He said: ‘It’s about two things: creating opportunity and pathway.

‘Pathway is if you go through the system and you are good enough.

‘If you go through the system at a category one club, you might have 40 players in a development group before you even get an opportunity to get in the first team.

‘As a parent I would look at that and think that it’s lovely they’ve got this facility but is my son going to get a chance to play in the first team?

‘When I was a kid, the club was in the same position. But that’s why the likes of myself, Kit Symons, Darryl Powell, Andy Awford and Darren Anderton played.

‘It’s good kids coming through that you can really put a lot of work in on the training ground, and, at the back end, we will give you the opportunity to play here.

‘It’s not rocket science.

‘We are talking about football and opportunity.’