Adam Webster's Pompey pathway gives all youngsters hope
As a pupil at East Wittering Community Primary School, Adam Webster handed over Â£2.50 a week for after-school coaching sessions in the hope of catching Pompey's attention.
This week he will complete a move to Ipswich in a deal valued at more than £750,000.
That 10-year-old brought to Fratton Park by Paul Hardyman has flourished, his reputation rocketed.
Once a target for terrace criticism, social media abuse and foundering in an unfamiliar full-back role, Webster will next season feature in the Championship.
As part of the deal, Matt Clarke and a sum in excess of £500,000 will be received by Pompey.
The blossoming development of the 21-year-old continues be a source of massive pride for Hardyman.
While serving as assistant youth development officer with the Blues, his eye was captured by Webster during elite centre trials on the Meon Infant School Astroturf.
From that instant impact, the youngster from West Wittering became ingrained in Pompey’s youth set-up.
Now he will depart for Portman Road following 81 appearances and five goals.
Hardyman said: ‘Not long after we recruited Adam, I told him he reminded me of Alan Hanson and Bobby Moore.
‘His response was “Who are they?”.
‘He was recommended to me by Paul Curran, who was working for me in the community scheme. So we invited him to a bit of a trials day for the elite centre, held on the Astroturf at Meon School.
‘After the first training session I turned round to a couple of the coaches and said “That kid will make it, he is decent”.
‘You could just see he had it, he was a tall, gangly kid even then, had that loping stride and the ability stood out.
‘We had a good group in that under-11s and I remember playing Bournemouth Centre of Excellence and beating them 6-0. Their guy, Derek Old said “Flippin’ heck, I would take six of them now!”.
‘About three or four were signed, they have dropped away but Adam hasn’t and has shown some real class.
‘When Paul Hart came in to head the Academy he asked me to recommend who I thought was the best player in the set-up and I mentioned Adam along with about four or five players.
‘I really enjoyed working with him as a young kid and then gradually coming through the under-18s.
‘There was one time he played 60 minutes for us in the morning at Wellington Sports Ground and then drove down to Fratton Park to be a substitute for the first-team.
‘It was against Bournemouth and was to get him the experience on the bench and being in and around the first-team. He showed then he had quality and came on for the final minute.
‘Even when I was involved in the first-team with Andy Awford, he always was a good player, although unfortunate.
‘We knew how good he was but were trying to get him into the team and, probably to his detriment, we played him at full-back.
‘But we always knew the kid had an abundance of talent and I still think he will go even higher.’
Webster’s progression into the Pompey first-team can be held up as an inspiration for any young footballer.
His was not a standard route, it was a prolonged path compared to others snapped up by football clubs.
Yet through determination and talent he has demonstrated there can be a positive outcome.
Hardyman added: ‘Adam had been on courses in the Bognor and Chichester area and the pathway was through an advanced training centre into the elite training centre and then into the Academy.
‘He had a long pathway but followed it – and succeeded.
‘It started with him paying £2.50 to play football at his after-school club and we also used to run that programme as a talent identification route
‘The club didn’t have too many scouts – they still don’t have too many scouts which is a detriment to them because they are losing too many kids to other clubs – but when I was doing the community scheme to promote Pompey I was also using it as a talent identification arena.
‘We would go out to schools, work with them in PE sessions, invite them to after-school clubs and if any were good enough would invite them to the advanced training centre. That work is still going on.
‘The likes of Adam, Calvin Davies, Ben Close, Chad Field and Dan Butler all came through the same route, a lot of kids have come through the community scheme.
‘I am really, really proud of what he has achieved. That step up will be a new challenge for him, which he has got to take on board – and will do that easily.’