Pompey in reserve team resurrection

Andy Awford Picture: Joe Pepler
Andy Awford Picture: Joe Pepler

Pompey are closing in on resurrecting their reserve team to play in a newly-created division.

The Football League are in advanced discussions with a number of southern-based clubs over forming an under-21 competition to kick off next season.

At present there is no such league in the south, although the format runs in the north of the country.

The Blues themselves scrapped their reserve side in July 2010, citing cost saving – following Steve Cotterill’s arrival as manager and David Lampitt’s appointment as chief executive.

Now moves are under way to get all clubs with Category 3 academies to become involved, including Pompey, MK Dons, Colchester, Peterborough, Gillingham and AFC Wimbledon.

Andy Awford spoke of the concept two weeks ago at the Pompey Supporters’ Trust’s One Year On event, although raised the issue of cost.

It is now being backed by Pompey’s board, though.

And following further talks with the Football League, the idea is set to become a reality.

Awford said: ‘The Football League have a northern under-21 league but not a southern one because they have had no interest in it.

‘Now they are trying to resurrect it and have asked what the issues were.

‘We have told them, then we had a meeting, and we’ve got to a stage now where it could work.

‘We have expressed an interest and are now waiting to see how many teams also express an interest.

‘If there are only four teams that want to do it then there’s not going to be a league.

‘It’s something I would welcome. There is a big hole, in my opinion, in England between the ages of 18-21.

‘Are all players ready at 18? No. Do they need extra time? Yes. Does that happen for every player? No. But the majority need the extra time.

‘We don’t seem to invest in that area and, for me, we should as a nation.

‘Hopefully it gets off the ground.’

At present, Pompey have a five-man development group which is bolstered by Academy youngsters and takes part in friendlies.

Yet there is no set fixture list, reducing the amount of matches to participate in.

And Awford believes that set-up hinders the development of young players.

He added: ‘We have struggled to get a games programme for our young professionals. Then you end up loaning them out.

‘They are in limbo a little bit in terms of the development of footballers.

‘You get your Whatmoughs and Wallaces who are able to jump straight in.

‘But some are not all like that, they are not all mentally and physically ready to go in and need that bit of time.

‘Was Matt Richie or Joel Ward ready to go in at 18 or 19? No. Now you look at them – and it’s about finding that in-between level.’