Cotterill rules out starlets boosting his squad

Academy boss Andy Awford
Academy boss Andy Awford
Pompey defender Brandon Haunstrup Picture: Joe Pepler

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Pompey will not be calling on their starlets next season to bolster their meagre squad numbers.

That is the verdict of Steve Cotterill, who believes it will be another two years before any of the club’s promising youngsters are ready for first-team duty.

As it stands, just nine players are contracted for the next Championship campaign.

In reality it is eight, with Tal Ben Haim and the club still attempting to secure his release from the remaining two years of his contract.

In the meantime, Cotterill is adamant there is no rising talent ready to supplement his squad.

Sam Magri has caught the eye with his England under-17 displays at the European Championships over the past week.

However, the defender is considered not yet ready by Academy manager Andy Awford, with Magri having another year to go on his scholarship.

Last year’s Academy crop of Perry Ryan, Ellis Martin, Billy Goddard and Peter Gregory were all put forward by Awford’s predecessor Paul Smalley.

But they were all released by the Blues this week after failing to convince Cotterill.

And the Blues boss believes it could be two years before the time is right to bring any other Academy players into his squad.

He said: ‘Ideally, you would like 22 in your squad if you could.

‘We have eight – and there are probably no young lads who can supplement that.

‘Andy Awford doesn’t think we have got any at the moment and I would rather have him say that than say that we have four lads coming up next season who are definitely good enough.

‘I thought that was an incorrect statement by Paul Smalley and I don’t think that helped.

‘If they come through, they have got to try to come through and be good enough.

‘We won’t get anything out of there for two years from now. That is what I believe because we have had to start again.

‘Andy has gone in there and done a really good job. More importantly, he has gone in there and told me the truth.

‘There is no blagging about how this one can come through and that one can come through.

‘We are two years away from bringing anybody through who will get into the first team. He’s done a really good job there and we are quite a way from bringing them through.’

The first teamers under contract are Ricardo Rocha, Jamie Ashdown, Liam Lawrence, Dave Kitson, Joel Ward, Kanu, Hayden Mullins and Aaron Mokoena.

But it is clearly not enough.

Cotterill added: ‘It is quite scary when you see all the players who left that dressing room on Saturday and then what is left in contract.

‘We have eight players. One of them is a goalkeeper, which gives you seven outfield players.

‘One of those is King (Kanu), who is not going to play 90 minutes for you all the time because he can’t.

‘Another one is a young Joel Ward, who has just played his first 30-odd games.’