Kelly: The platform for Pompey youth to thrive

Pompey's latest scholars with under-18 coach Mikey Harris, back left
Pompey's latest scholars with under-18 coach Mikey Harris, back left
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Mark Kelly watched with frustration as the Academy, constructed upon sand, crumbled into the ground.

Now the newly-appointed youth boss is laying the foundations to ensure the fate which befell Paul Hart and Harry Redknapp doesn’t occur again.

More importantly, Kelly’s push will continue to be driven by local talent.

Under the charge of former Blues owner Sacha Gaydamak, more than £3m was invested into the Academy during the 2008-09 campaign – although that concentrated on players rather than infrastructure.

The likes of James Hurst, Tom Kilbey, Liam O’Brien, Guatier Mahoto and Gael Nlundulu were bought, while Pablo Navas Alors, Florent Cuvelier, Ryan Gazet du Chatellier, Tero Mantyla, Lenny Sowah and Luke Wilkinson also arrived.

But while local lads Matt Ritchie, Joel Ward and Marlon Pack flourished around that era, almost all the pricey recruits struggled.

Having been involved in that previous Academy set-up under head of youth Hart, Kelly can compare the approaches to development.

And he is convinced today’s momentum, sparked by Andy Awford, can go from strength-to-strength with improved facilities and local talent.

He said: ‘It was a different environment back then. The way the club was there was investment going in, there were some structures going in, it was more of an open process.

‘What I mean by that is there were a lot more European kids coming in. It was rivalling, if you like, some of the bigger clubs through that element.

‘A lot of money was spent. In every area it was a player-focused environment. If only we took two players less on the wages going around we would have had a format and structure.

‘It was part of the discussions the owners had with Harry and Paul that that was where we needed to get to and that is how they wanted to fund it.

‘But the element behind it is the place where it’s going to go. If you have no foundation underneath, no infrastructure, there is only going to be a certain amount of time when it will come off.

‘Like the way the club went, everything just blew up too big, too early for what it was.

‘The step progression is we should be looking at facilities, we should be building on that – but it became a raft of expenditure around players rather than facilities, structure, format – all the things if you don’t have it’s not going to go forward.

‘I remember the local boys were the ones you had to fight for really within that stage. You had to fight for them and say, actually, they are probably better technically than anything we have got but they came through.

‘Now, obviously today, we have got to find the best local kids, we have to make it happen with kids within the boundary that our recruitment can deliver. For me, that probably is a better place to go.’

The Academy has this week unveiled its latest intake of eight scholars.

These include Christian Oxlade-Chamberlain – son of former Pompey and England player Mark Chamberlain – and keeper Alex Bass, who played in the Blues’ FA Youth Cup run last season.

Others signing two-year scholarship forms are Calvin Davies, Kaleem Haitham, Brandon Joseph-Buadi, Adam May, Liam Sayers and Dory Yates.