Pompey Academy age groups safe for now

122969_CRAWLEY_PFC_9/9/12''Ashley Harris celebrates his goal.  Crawley Town FC V Portsmouth at Broadfield Stadium, Crawley.''Picture: Allan Hutchings (122969-609)
122969_CRAWLEY_PFC_9/9/12''Ashley Harris celebrates his goal. Crawley Town FC V Portsmouth at Broadfield Stadium, Crawley.''Picture: Allan Hutchings (122969-609)
Dion Donohue. Picture: Colin Farmery

New boy’s bitter-sweet Pompey experience

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Pompey’s Academy has received assurances its structure will be spared in the latest round of cost-cutting by administrators PKF.

But costs will be slashed elsewhere within the youth system to compensate.

The News understands the Academy was under consideration to be reduced to leave the club with just under-16 and under-18 teams.

That would have seen the scrapping of six Fratton Park age groups, from the under-nines upwards.

More importantly, it would devastate the existing system which has been pinpointed as the backbone of the club moving forward.

PKF have declined to go into detail over their next cost-cutting target with the club still in administration.

However, it is understood Pompey staff had already been briefed about such Academy proposals.

Now Guy Whittingham and Andy Awford have been told by PKF the Academy will continue in its existing form until the end of the season.

It represents positive news – although the blow is cuts are required elsewhere within the set-up.

And that will put immense pressure on Awford and his five full-time members of staff with an annual budget already around £450,000.

The past week has seen the administrators serve a month’s notice on their Eastleigh training ground in an effort to cut costs.

The Blues’ highest-earning players have also been told they will not be offered new contracts, with Brian Howard, Lee Williamson, Mustapha Dumbuya and Jon Harley to be released.

The next round of cost-cutting is now underway with PKF insisting it is crucial with the club still in administration.

A PKF spokesman said: ‘We are looking at various cost-cutting measures at the moment as the club remains in administration.

‘However, we are not going to comment on specifics at this stage.’

A flourishing Academy is perceived as crucial to the club’s future, particularly should it fall into League Two.

In 2012, five existing youth players were sold, four of them to Premier League clubs.

Current first-team players Ashley Harris and Adam Webster came through the Pompey ranks.

Similarly, Dan Butler, now named in the squad, has been with the Blues for the past eight years.

Matt Ritchie, Marlon Pack and Joel Ward have gone on to make names for themselves in the Football League.

And James Keene and Jason Pearce left after coming through the system – only to return as first-team players.

When Paul Hart headed the set-up in the Premier League, around £3.5m was spent on the Academy in one year.

Now there is no recruitment budget for Awford and Academy staff are often filling two jobs to cope with previous cut backs.