Kelly: Pompey Academy scholars will remain grounded

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Mark Kelly hailed the eight fledging stars who have joined Pompey’s Academy ranks.

But the Blues youth boss insisted the young guns will remain grounded as they begin their journey towards the first-team.

Eight new scholars were inducted into Pompey’s Academy on Friday at a Fratton Park ceremony.

Bradley Lethbridge Joe Dandy, Freddie Read, Joe Hancott, Oscar Johnston, Leon Maloney, James Whiting and Josh Flint all listened carefully to Kelly and coach Mikey Harris’ words of wisdom.

Chief executive Mark Catlin and Fratton Park legend Alan Knight were also there to congratulate the talents.

They follow in the footsteps of players such as Jack Whatmough and Conor Chaplin, who have become key members of Pompey’s first-team squad.

Kelly congratulated the rising stars on their achievements through the Blues’ ranks.

And he urged them to take their opportunity by the scruff of the neck.

Kelly said: ‘A lot of the kids have been here since they were young.

‘They’ve all been working hard to get here.

‘It’s not just the boys but their parents have put so much time and energy in.

‘The lads are a really vibrant group who have been together for a while.

‘There’s a great core and they all bounce off each other.

‘Currently, there are eight Academy graduates training in the first team.

‘You’ve got the Jack Whatmoughs and Conor Chaplins working hard.

‘The young lads see that and we tell them “get your heads down and, hopefully, you can follow suit” in a few years.

‘The young boys have engaged with those who’ve came through the ranks.

‘They’re part of the group and it’s nice to have that reality and in numbers of large quantity.

‘For them now, the challenge is to get themselves into that group.’

In the modern football world of fast cars and flashy jewellery, it can be easy for young players to get caught up in the moment.

However, through a strict regime of routine, education and keeping them focused, Kelly is adamant that will not happen at Pompey.

‘We are trying to create a culture that keeps all of our lads grounded – we do that straight away,’ added the Academy chief.

‘You have to build a career in football and this is where it starts.

‘Forget everything that comes with the game – you have to work hard.

‘Football can breed overconfident players but that’s the opposite of where we are.

‘Instead, we are on a different spectrum.

‘Our philosophy is we want them to be grounded and want them to completely understand that.

‘What is important is they work every single day and make sure they are they best they can be.

‘The hard work has now begun for each and every one of them.

‘The day was nice but the reality is they all have to start again.’