Pompey doubts over development group timing

Kenny Jackett. Picture: Paul Currie

Pompey boss Kenny Jackett is undecided whether a development squad will be created for next season.

Chairman Michael Eisner has repeatedly delivered his vision to develop young talent at Fratton Park.

If we went to a development squad we would need more pitches, more changing rooms and that would probably entail the youth team training off-site

Kenny Jackett

Similarly, Academy chief Mark Kelly and his staff have long championed the necessity for an under-23 squad.

The introduction of a development side would benefit promising players stranded in the limbo between the academy and first-team.

However, while Jackett recognises the importance of such a set up, crucially there are concerns whether the Blues’ Roko training ground facilities would allow it.

Pompey’s boss said: ‘I don’t think the development squad has been discussed – and whether it will happen next year I am not sure on that.

‘We would need more facilities. If we went to a development squad, we would need more pitches, more changing rooms and that would probably entail the youth team training off-site.

‘We could get to it player wise, it’s easy to sign players, it’s just hard to sign good ones.

‘So we would be able to get to that – it’s just about development squad facilities.

‘Millwall have a Category 2 Academy with a separate site for the youth team, it is five minutes down the road and very good, there is no excuse not to be organised.

‘If you are crammed onto one area it can be tough.

‘The groundstaff here tell me that apparently these are clay-based pitches and not necessarily firm and hard.

‘The pitches are great – very, very good – but they are old, traditional pitches and you don’t want too much wear on them.

‘So if we upped the numbers by 15-20 people then all of a sudden the groundstaff would think this isn’t set up for that.

‘You might still decide to do it anyway, but we have to take their advice.

‘I don’t know if there is room for a third group – but if some of it is off-site that is okay as well, we can still organise it.’

Theo Widdrington, Jez Bedford and Christian Oxlade-Chamberlain represent first and second-year professionals currently on Pompey’s books.

All three have been involved in loan spells this season – and Jackett believes that could offer the solution.

He added: ‘The alternative is sign junior pros and put them out into National League South and National League, which I don’t think is the end of the world.

‘Theo Widdrington was 18 in April, at that age and playing National League South is a pathway – and not a bad pathway either.

‘Particularly with 13 games by the end of October, which is good, very good.

‘In the second half of the season or next year, we could get him into the National League or League Two.

‘Everybody scouts one level below and he can build a reputation and come through.

‘In some cases, that is a viable alternative to a development group.’

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