Hardyman challenges other kids to make first-team breakthrough this season

Alex Grant is on loan with Hawks. Picture: Dave Haines
Alex Grant is on loan with Hawks. Picture: Dave Haines
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Pompey’s youngsters have been told: You too can make it into the first-team this season.

That is the challenge from Paul Hardyman after four Academy products were on the pitch at the same time against MK Dons on Tuesday.

Jed Wallace, Dan Butler, Ashley Harris and Adam Webster played the last 16 minutes together in the 1-1 Fratton Park draw.

Afterwards, Guy Whittingham admitted he expects more youngsters to follow them into the first-team squad before the campaign is out.

That applies to first-year professionals Alex Grant, George Colson, Elliot Wheeler and Dan Thompson as well as those in the Academy.

It’s a view echoed by Academy coach Hardyman, who has urged his prospects to push hard for the prized chance on offer.

He said: ‘The opportunities are there – and you have got to include Colson, Grant, Wheeler and Thompson in that as well.

‘There is also the chance for some of the scholars to force their way into the team before the end of the season, giving them valuable league experience.

‘Any of them could do it. We are pleased with how they are performing at the moment as a group and this season there have been some notable displays.

‘If I am being honest, probably no-one is ready.

‘However, in the club’s current situation another one or two could break through, for sure.

‘I don’t want to mention names, it all depends on positions.

‘If they had an injury crisis at the back there are two or three who could step up depending on positions – and this is what we keep saying to the boys.

‘At left-back, Butler is in the first team, Liam Triggs and Harry Medway are in the youth team and Brandon Hunstrup is an under-16 who has been offered a scholarship.

‘These will be the left-backs competing for a first-team place in the next few years.

‘In a similar vein, at centre half there is Webster and Grant, then Josh Warren and Jack Whatmough in the Academy.

‘That’s just an example because in other positions we have competition as well, although number-wise they are probably the stronger ones.

‘You know in the ranks there are players who can make that step and it is probably easier to do that in League One and League Two.

‘When in the Championship and Premier League it was harder, managers are not going to give youngsters much of a chance and budgets are a lot more.’

The Academy side travel to Stevenage on Saturday in the league.

Last weekend they ended a run of three games without a win by defeating Peterborough 4-0.