Mikey Harris reflected on a successful season for Pompey Academy and backed his ‘fantastic’ group of young players to thrive in their future endeavours.
The Blues’ youth-team coach, alongside Academy manager Mark Kelly and first-team boss Paul Cook, was given the difficult task of deciding which of his second-year scholars to award a professional deal last month.
Calvin Davies, Alex Bass and Christian Oxlade-Chamberlain received good news, joining team-mate Adam May who earned that right earlier in the season.
Injury-plagued Dory Yates was given more time to impress but for Liam Sayers, Kaleem Haitham and Brandon Joseph-Buadi it was the end of the road.
Harris, though, is insistent all of the players will go on to achieve success in whatever pathway they pursue.
He said: ‘It has been a very successful season from our point of view, especially in terms of the second years that have come through.
‘All of them as a whole have been a fantastic group to work with – and I truly believe they will go on to be extremely successful in whatever they do.
‘There will be some great memories for them to take away – whether that will be remaining with the club and going into the first team, or going to other clubs.
‘The obvious one is the FA Youth Cup run.’
Harris’ side progressed to the third round before they were narrowly beaten 2-1 by runners-up Manchester City.
‘We put in an excellent performance at Plymouth in the first round,’ said Harris.
‘And then obviously we had the comeback at Bristol Rovers to win on penalties – the experience of that will stand them in good stead.
‘The Manchester City game at Fratton Park is the undoubted highlight, though.
‘The turnout from Pompey fans and the atmosphere they created, along with the performance the boys put in is something that will live long in their memories.
‘Speak to any pro and they will tell you about their memorable games in the Youth Cup.
‘And away from the cup, in the second half of the season the boys showed consistency in their Merit League campaign to finish second.’
With so many positives, Harris pointed to the club’s lack of development football as an area for potential progress and improvement – as and when the time is right.
He added: ‘The only gutting thing is that we haven’t got a structure in place at the football club where we can continue for a little bit longer.
‘Whether it is in the immediate or long-term future, one day we need to have a structure in place from 18 to 21 to ensure we maximise the potential of the lads we have got.’
– JEFF MARSHMAN