Awford’s warning as Premier giants try to raid Pompey

Andy Awford has fired a warning to rival clubs
Andy Awford has fired a warning to rival clubs

Premier League clubs are attempting to muscle in on Pompey turf and poach talented players aged as young as seven years old.

London giants Chelsea and Spurs are just two of the clubs believed to be in the process of setting up academy development centres in the city and nearby area as they bid to take advantage of Pompey’s financial problems.

New rules set to be introduced next season now allow clubs with a category one-rated academy to establish training centres wherever they choose – rather than within 90 minutes’ travel time of that club.

And Pompey simply don’t have the funds to compete.

But while he knows he is in danger of missing out on the cream of the area’s young players, Pompey Academy boss Andy Awford has assured talented youngsters and their parents they will be spotted and wanted by Pompey.

Awford said: ‘There used to be restrictions on where development centres could be situated.

‘But now any club can pitch up where they want, if they are a category-one club.

‘It’s the big boys getting their own way again and it will probably happen anyway.

‘I won’t name the clubs but I know a few are starting to try to set these things up in the city or very close surrounding areas and I’m not happy about it.

‘It’s a huge problem. At the moment, we have got under-sevens and under-eights being scouted and recruited to big Premier League clubs, which means the talent will be sucked out of the area.’

Awford, who is currently assisting caretaker Blues boss Guy Whittingham, has overseen the recent progress of Ashley Harris, Adam Webster, Jed Wallace and Dan Butler from the youth ranks to the first team.

And he believes there are more set to follow their lead in the near future.

He said: ‘I think people can see there is a quick pathway from the Academy to the first team at this club at the moment.

‘I’m not so sure that is the case at some of the big Premier League clubs.

‘For me, if I was brought up down here, this is where I would want to play.

‘If those players are good enough to come through and Pompey cannot match their ambitions in the future, they will move on eventually anyway.

‘We would never stop that from happening.

‘We’ve seen four in the first team and they are not the only ones.

‘There are more good players beneath them coming through.’

Pompey have missed good players in the past and Awford believes that could yet still happen in the future.

But he has urged those at the grass roots level of the game in the region to cut Pompey some slack while they are in administration.

He said: ‘I’m just appealing to people to bear with us and I just hope they can be patient.

‘It’s not that we don’t want these players. We want the very best boys from this city and the surrounding area to be at Portsmouth Football Club.

‘And if we could do what these Premier League clubs are doing, we would.

‘But we just haven’t got the funding to do it.

‘I understand some parents’ heads will be turned and some will say that we don’t offer anything.

‘It’s true that we can’t match what they can do in terms of resources.

‘When I first came into the Academy, my plan was to have our own 10 or 12 development centres scattered around the city and Hampshire.

‘Hopefully, that will still happen in the future.

‘These Premier League clubs might promise certain things and they may only take two or three.

‘But those are the two or three we want.

‘We are fighting to keep the Academy alive, let alone having any extras.

‘But we are doing our very best to scout around the area and to build closer links with local teams that will serve us well in the future.

‘It’s not easy at the moment with a lack of funding.

‘But I strongly believe people in this city and beyond want to do their bit for this club and we want to do our bit for them.

‘There is nothing better than seeing young lads from the city and in our region coming through to play for the club.’