Primus backs the youth floodgates to open

Academy boss Andy Awford
Academy boss Andy Awford

In nine seasons, Linvoy Primus witnessed just three players emerge through the ranks to feature for Pompey.

Now the trickle appears to be heading for a torrent as the Blues put the emphasis on youth.

Primus counts Gary O’Neil, Asmir Begovic and Marc Wilson among his home-grown team-mates during his Fratton playing career.

The trio established themselves as first-team regulars before they were sold to Premier League clubs.

Since Primus retired in December 2009, the likes of Joel Ward, Matt Ritchie, Marlon Pack, Ashley Harris and Adam Webster have made the senior squad.

Harris is one of eight players offered first-year professional terms for Pompey next season as Michael Appleton seeks to build his team around youth.

Primus worked as a mentor for many of the youngsters presented with such deals.

And he feels Pompey’s future is in safe hands.

He said: ‘In years gone by, it has been a lot harder for Academy players to break into the first-team squad.

‘I can only think of Gary O’Neil, Asmir Begovic and Marc Wilson when I played.

‘But there is now a huge opportunity for that number to grow as the club looks for home-grown talent to take the club forward again.

‘With what is going on at the club, a number of these players will be part of the squad on a regular basis.

‘Hopefully, when the opportunities come, they will be mature enough to take them.

‘The bigger picture is that young players in the community will see this as a big chance to fulfil their dream and become a Pompey player.

‘There is enough talent on our doorstep who are hungry to make their careers with the club they love.

‘Home-grown players will always give you more because, for them, it is not about wages or the status – it is about pulling on a blue shirt and giving their all.

‘The pride they would feel in front of family and friends will be such a big motivator that you will always know you will get 100 per cent.’

As a mentor in the past, Primus has got close to Pompey’s most promising players.

And he believes they have the maturity to cope with their newly-elevated status.

He added: ‘I’ve had the pleasure of working with them and giving professional contracts will help them develop on and off the pitch.

‘They were given life skills so they could walk through situations that might arise not only as footballers but as young men.’