Pompey can reap rewards from new-look Academy set-up

Steve Cotterill has stamped his authority on Pompey's youth development
Steve Cotterill has stamped his authority on Pompey's youth development
Dion Donohue has signed a two-year deal at Pompey Picture: Colin Farmery

Pompey new boy’s out to continue rise

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In Steve Coterill’s own words, it was ‘a culling’.

The Pompey boss wasn’t forced to cut adrift the youngsters he saw as playing no part in the club’s future, so much as hack away the huge swathes of players clogging up his squad.

Cotterill had assessed the graduates and young pros in his senior ranks after arriving in the summer and it didn’t take long for him to realise they weren’t going to cut it.

In fact, a single training session presented enough evidence to his finely-honed eye for a player. And it wasn’t good news.

People like Paris Cowan-Hall, Jordan Hughes, Gael Nlundulu, Liam O’Brien, Danijel Subotic and Gauthier Mahoto are a distant memory – to name a few.

They were all involved in Cotterill’s first game in charge at the Hawks last July – along with Academy graduate Matt Ritchie, who has since signed for League One Swindon.

Now the first steps are being made at putting in place an Academy that can feed the Blues boss players he actually feels he can call on.

Cotterill is looking for a steady stream of players like Joel Ward to come into the senior reckoning.

It might be early days, but those strides are confidently being made with Andy Awford’s under-18 side picking up three wins from his first games in charge – including a win over some youngsters from along the M27.

Awford has been impressed with the work ethic of his young players such as Lewis Stockford, Carl Walshe and Sam Magri.

Although, he’s stressed it’s early days.

One thing Cotterill is sure of is Pompey won’t be seeing a return to the situation where he had to sweep away masses of young players.

He said: ‘Youth development should be a key part of the future but it hasn’t been (at Pompey recently).

‘We’ve only had a few come through – and the ones who have come through haven’t been good enough.

‘I cannot afford to have the backlog of players choking us that we had on the Football League player list.

‘They were never, ever going to kick a ball for Portsmouth Football Club.

‘It’s sometimes a horrible job to let a young player go.

‘Whether you are releasing them or letting them go for £500,000 it’s horrible, but it had to be done.

‘It was almost a culling here, but it had to be that otherwise we wouldn’t have been able to get the bodies in.

‘We had to be on a block of 20 players. Everything was blocked like that.

‘When I first came into this club the kids here, and I told Paul Smalley this, weren’t playing enough football and being coached enough.

‘I think if some of the lads who came into the first-team squad had been coached they would have had more of a comprehension of the game.

‘Put it this way. Something has changed because the results have changed at Academy level.

‘Sometimes you have to be unpopular to say what you think.’

Cotterill has been delighted with the work Awford has put in since coming into his role as Academy boss.

He has been impressed with what he has seen and heard from the Blues hero since his return to the club.

There will be plans to lay down a more detailed blueprint when the summer arrives and Cotterill can take stock after a manic time since arriving as manager at the end of last season.

Cotterill has had to make some sweeping changes after coming into the hot-seat, which has upset a few along the way.

Of course, there will be no apologies for that.

Cotterill said: ‘Me and Andy haven’t had a good sit down, yet.

‘We’ve had a few sit downs, but I don’t think that will really come until the end of the season.

‘I think he’s doing a good job so far. He’s done very well. I’m pleased with him and pleased for him.

‘I remember when I came in and people talked about being honest.

‘I was honest about what was needed and was then criticised by people for doing that.

‘Maybe people will think I’m right now.

‘At the end of the day, I have a good record for bringing through young players, and I mean good young players.

‘I mean people who have gone on to be internationals. If you can do that you are on to a winner.

‘The one thing not worth doing is persevering with young players who aren’t going to be good enough.

‘You haven’t got time for that.

‘The young players who come through here will not only be good enough for us, they’ll be good enough to go on.

‘Honest and refreshing was the shout when I came through the door. Sometimes people don’t want honest and refreshing.

‘They say they do but they don’t.

‘Now we’re nine months down the line...’