Awford welcomes youth revamp

Pompey Academy manager Andy Awford
Pompey Academy manager Andy Awford

Andy Awford believes Pompey’s Academy will not be hurt by the youth revamp in English football.

The Blues have been handed category-three status as part of the incoming Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP) next season.

That means they will compete largely against League One and Two clubs in the south-east section of the new under-18 league.

The move represents a step down from the Premier Academy League they played in last season.

Pompey finished bottom of that table, but Awford feels they will now be more competitive at the new level.

Awford was hopeful of the Blues being able to secure a category-two grading when the EPPP was first mooted.

Pompey’s financial problems have put paid to those ambitions, however, meaning they will now go in at the lower level.

There is a fear players will now be picked off by bigger clubs after the rule stating a player has to live within 90 minutes of a club’s training facility was scrapped.

But Awford feels Pompey will still remain attractive to the young players he is looking to recruit.

The former Blues defender came through the ranks at Fratton Park, playing against the level of opposition the players will meet next season.

He reckons it can be positive for the young talents who will be the club’s future.

Awford said: ‘We’re looking forward to the challenge.

‘I came through the system at Pompey, playing against a similar level of opposition myself.

‘I think we can do quite well against the teams we will face in there.

‘Instead of being smothered all of the time, we have got the chance to achieve something.’

Peterborough will provide the Academy with their single opposition from the Championship, while they will also take on Blue Square Bet Premier outfit Luton.

Pompey face Aldershot, AFC Wimbledon, Bournemouth, Crawley, Gillingham and Southend twice in their new league.

And they will take on Dagenham & Redbridge, Leyton Orient, Luton, MK Dons, Northampton, Peterborough and Stevenage a single time, with the side also in an under-18 cup.

Meanwhile, the under-18 side have a string of pre-season warm-up games lined up to carry them through to the start of the new campaign on August 11.

They travel to Hawks on July 24, before a trip to Brighton on July 27.

Pompey have a home game against Aldershot on August 31.

Paul Hardyman’s outfit then face an away trip to Reading on August 4 in their final friendly.