Pompey lose out on Farm crop

Carl Walshe. Picture: Allan Hutchings
Carl Walshe. Picture: Allan Hutchings
Pompey's Gareth Evans. Picture: Joe Pepler

Evans: Player talk has lifted Pompey form

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It was a club partnership heralded as the prized opportunity to tap into a rich seam of young Irish talent desperate to be uncovered.

Lucrative access to a prolific conveyor belt which has yielded dozens of Republic of Ireland internationals over the years.

Pompey’s exclusive union with Home Farm was supposed to provide the next generation of Fratton Park stars.

Instead those links rusted, the grand alliance was dissolved and this summer its sole products were both released by the Blues.

Still, Carl Walshe and Chinedu Vine lasted longer than the ambitious relationship with their former club.

When the Home Farm pair ventured across the Irish Sea to join Pompey’s Academy, it was anticipated they would be the first of many to make the trip.

Back in February 2009, the master plan was unveiled by then director of youth operations Paul Hart to much fanfare and publicity, particularly at the Dublin-based club.

Home Farm were delirious to have established such a partnership with a Premier League club.

It stirred memories of previously successful alliances with the likes of Leeds and Everton in recent times, yielding a number of players who would go on to international football.

The CV is impressive, with the likes of Liam Brady, Ronnie Whelan, Gary Kelly, Ian Harte, Stephen McPhail, Mark Kennedy, Richard Dunne, Kenny Cunningham, Darren O’Dea, Chris McCann and Mark Kinsella home-grown products.

As part of the agreement, Pompey would be granted first refusal of any players emerging through the club’s impressive youth set-up.

In return, the Blues would supply coaches, help financially and also allow Home Farm sides to come over to England for friendlies and coaching sessions.

However, within 18 months the ties were severed, administration effectively ending that agreement.

Now Walshe and Vine have departed – the last links with what should have been a glorious union but instead proved to be a massive disappointment.

Pat Malone is Home Farm’s director of football development and was their academy director when the agreement was made in 2009.

And with the likes of promising duo Ian Lawlor and Evan Finnegan joining Manchester City and Doncaster respectively in the past year, he believes it is Pompey’s loss.

He said: ‘If we still had the link it would not have been just two players, it would be five or six every year. We would be very forward thinking.

‘Ian and Evan could have joined Pompey. Instead they have gone to other clubs because that partnership no longer exists.

‘When the club went into administration the first time it had a big effect on the agreement we had in place. There was no money to fund the project, so the alliance had to go.

‘I was very disappointed. We went into it with our eyes open, Paul Hart was there and we had an association with him going back to Leeds and Nottingham Forest.

‘There was a great relationship between the clubs.

‘The players loved going over there, we brought teams across – probably four times in the space of 12 months. We also had Pompey coaches sent over to take sessions, which was really beneficial.

‘They would come over from time to time, people like Mark Chamberlain, Ian Woan and John Keeley. There were four or five of them and we really appreciated them giving us their time.

‘Administration put paid to everything and suddenly it wasn’t possible to maintain that link.

‘We tried to keep it limping along for a period but it wasn’t conducive in terms of the development of our players.

‘We supported Pompey and issued a statement backing them. It went on for another nine months but in the end was no longer feasible.

‘Unfortunately, it also hasn’t happened for Carl (Walshe) and Chinedu (Vine) – they were a victim of circumstance.

‘Carl lives 500 yards from me. I coached him from six or seven years of age and he is bitterly disappointed not to have been offered the opportunity at Portsmouth.

‘I can understand it – that’s football. He may have to come back over here for a year or two now and rebuild his career.

‘There still is a lot of interest from other clubs in forming a partnership with us, the problem is we got burned a little bit with Pompey and have to be very careful how we go on. These are impressionable kids and I have to be very, very confident our players would get an opportunity. I don’t want them damaged.’

Striker Walshe arrived in the summer of 2009 but has been released after Pompey opted against renewing his contract.

The 19-year-old penned first-year professional terms last summer, yet never broke into the first-team set-up.

He joined Frome Town in February on loan, making three appearances.

A year younger than Walshe, Vine arrived in the summer of 2010 – with Home Farm sticking to their agreement despite Pompey being deep in administration trouble.

The striker’s contract stipulated he would automatically receive first-year professional terms once he had graduated from the Academy.

That was achieved this summer, however, it was mutually agreed to cancel the striker’s contract and he has now joined Portuguese outfit CD Feirense.

Vine made just five appearances for the Academy last season, all of which were as a substitute.

Former Home Farm chairman, John Lyon, oversaw the signing of the partnership with Pompey and subsequent departures of both Walshe and Vine for England.

And he remains deeply disappointed over the project’s failure.

Lyon added: ‘It is tragic what has happened at Portsmouth.

‘I really feel for the fans, such fanatical people.

‘The first year of the partnership was grand. Our lads went over for a week-long summer camp at one stage and we had coaching staff over here sometimes.

‘It’s so sad it had to end but it was all down to finance. It drifted along for a while but really didn’t get off the ground.

‘Young players emerging comes in cycles. It is normally a three-year cycle but we didn’t manage to get that far with Portsmouth.

‘I feel for Chinedu and Carl but it is 100/1 for the boys to make it and takes more than football.

‘We used to send them over to England by the boatload and get them back by the boatload.

‘That’s football, you win some, you lose some. It is over now and we wish Portsmouth all the best.

‘It’s just sad for everyone concerned.’