Awford welcomes new Academy intake to Pompey

The six new Pompey apprentices, left to right, back: Lewis Gill, Brandon Haunstrup, James Granger. Front: Fahad Rwakarambwe, Conor Chaplin, Chad Field. Picture: Ian Hargreaves (131845-11)
The six new Pompey apprentices, left to right, back: Lewis Gill, Brandon Haunstrup, James Granger. Front: Fahad Rwakarambwe, Conor Chaplin, Chad Field. Picture: Ian Hargreaves (131845-11)
Pompey boss Kenny Jackett. Picture: Joe Pepler

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Local talent remains the primary focus in Pompey’s latest Academy intake.

The Blues this week signed six youngsters as first-year scholars for the youth set-up.

It’s recognition of the immense promise they have displayed coming through the Fratton Park ranks.

As 16-year-old’s, Chad Field, Brandon Haunstrup, Fahad Rwakarambwe, Lewis Gill, James Granger and Conor Chaplin will now have the opportunity to spend the next two years with the Academy.

In addition, they hail from Southampton, Portchester, Waterlooville and also Bognor Regis.

For Andy Awford, it continues to be crucial to scour the local scene for aspiring footballers rather than look further afield.

Gone are the days of bringing players in from France, Holland, Germany or even Millwall to bolster the Academy.

Now a League Two outfit with a budget reduced from last year, Pompey have to look elsewhere.

But the Academy manager is convinced the ability is very much out there.

Awford said: ‘There is nothing like walking through that door for the first time as a scholar, going into the dressing room and getting your boots on.

‘They are all local lads as well who have been with us for a while in the system.

‘Gone are the days of scouting worldwide and European and even national, we have to make sure we box it off locally as best we can.

‘That is our aim and I believe we are on the right track.

‘As an Academy we cannot cast the net too far and will also be looking at the likes of Chelsea and Reading to see what they are releasing. Our focus, though, will continue to be on local players and these lads reflect that and will be given a chance.

‘We normally take in seven to nine players every year, this time it is six.

‘However, we will be looking to also sign a keeper before the end of pre-season.

‘We had an intake of seven last year and nine in my first year but the budget has now been reduced.

‘Having said that, if we felt there were eight or nine worthy then maybe we could have done something.’

Pompey are becoming ever more reliant on their youth set-up due to the current environment.

In recent seasons Ashley Harris, Adam Webster, Dan Butler and Jed Wallace have emerged to feature regularly in first-team squads. It gives the six new scholars tantalising hope of what they can potentially achieve if they continue their encouraging progress.

The likes of Bradley Tarbuck and Jack Whatmough are in the year ahead – they are players who have already featured for the Blues at senior level.

Although neither have made a Football League appearance.

And Awford believes recent success stories can drive others to follow.

He added: ‘These lads have come through with Ian Buckman and Alan McLoughlin in recent years and a few progressed into the under-18s as under-16s.

‘The bar has been raised over the last couple of years by the others so they have a lot to live up to.

‘This is a new batch and it is now up to them.’