Cup is Premier League for Pompey prospects

Adam May congratulates Kal Naismith on his goal. Picture: Mick Young (161148-11)
Adam May congratulates Kal Naismith on his goal. Picture: Mick Young (161148-11)
Matty Kennedy. Picture: Joe Pepler

Pompey 1 Southend 0: They said what

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THE PREMIER League Cup has been highlighted as the perfect tool to educate Pompey’s emerging youngsters.

Academy coach Mikey Harris hailed the success of the Blues’ involvement in the competition after they progressed to the group stage on Monday with a 2-0 win over Barnsley.

Goals from Noel Hunt and Kal Naismith gave the Blues victory and set up fascinating home and away dates with Everton, Wolves and Norwich in the under-23 tournament.

A strong Pompey side featured a host of Academy graduates, including Conor Chaplin, Adam May and Ben Close.

There was also game time for current Academy players Jez Bedford and Kyle McDowell.

Harris felt the Tykes clash showed why Pompey wanted to be involved.

He said: ‘Everyone has been really pleased with how it’s gone. It was a great night on Monday.

‘If you look through, in terms of the Academy conveyor belt, there were 10 Academy graduates or players involved.

‘It’s a fantastic thing for these lads to be competing at that level.’

It wasn’t just young players who benefitted from the Barnsley game – as the likes of Hunt and Kyle Bennett were given a runout.

Harris feels you can’t put a price on young players mixing with seasoned pros in such an environment.

He said: ‘Noel Hunt has played hundreds and hundreds of games but really enjoyed it.

‘It’s a chance for the senior boys coming back from injury to play in a decent standard match.

‘I’ve always likened it to the old Combination League where you played with good senior pros as a young lad.

‘If you weren’t doing something right you were told in no uncertain terms by someone who’d played a few hundred league games.

‘You listened and you learnt from it.

‘You took confidence from playing alongside these players and that experience.

‘These are experiences you can’t replicate in training. I think it’s a real positive.’

Now Category Three Academy Pompey go up against three Category One clubs in the under-23 competition – an exciting yardstick in Harris’ mind.

He said: ‘For us, as a Cat Three Academy and League Two club, to pit ourselves against these teams in a competitive environment is a great opportunity for the lads to learn.

‘You could have under-18 or under-19s coming up against Premier League under-23s.

‘It’s a stern challenge but, until you put yourself in that position, you don’t know where you’re at.’