Pompey ready to take on big guns in battle for talent

Pompey boss Guy Whittingham. Picture: Sarah Standing (13225-3853)

Pompey boss Guy Whittingham. Picture: Sarah Standing (13225-3853)

Enda Stevens. Picture: Joe Pepler

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Guy Whittingham says Pompey can fight fire with fire as Premier League big guns move in on their territory.

The Blues boss reckons his club can more than match the likes of Chelsea who are aiming to poach their young talent.

The English game’s top outfits can now muscle in on local talent, following changes in the laws governing Academy systems.

Chelsea have opened a development centre in Portsmouth, and the likes of Spurs are set to follow suit.

That’s a worry for Pompey, with developing home-grown players crucial to their plans for the future.

But Whittingham believes the fact that emerging young stars have a real chance of playing regular first-team football at Fratton Park is a key in taking on the Premier League powerhouses.

And he warned players they won’t necessarily be getting a better football education elsewhere.

The Pompey boss said: ‘Obviously, clubs like Chelsea are a big attraction.

‘What I would say is it doesn’t necessarily mean there’s better coaches there.

‘I’ve had kids that age and I’d want them to go to a coach with good ideas and learn from them. It’s not always the case that big clubs have better coaches.

‘If you are thinking of taking your kid to a Chelsea or Spurs centre, we can’t stop you. But you have to look at who the best coach is.

‘If your kid is good enough they will end up going to a bigger club, anyway.

‘There’s been players in the past who have been asked to go somewhere else, but the parent has stayed strong. They make the decision and are supporters of the club and what they are trying to do.

‘That’s vitally important in the climate we’re in and with the finances we have.

‘The fans want to see home-produced players and that’s what we want to do.

‘I’d like to think with the way we are going to be doing things there will be a clear pathway through to the first team here.

‘I’d like to think the younger lads can see they have a very real chance of playing in the first team.

‘So I’d also like to think we can attract the best players in the area. If we don’t then they don’t want to be here.’

Whittingham believes the Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP) which is behind the Academy changes in the English game needs attention.

He said: ‘You look at the way the Premier League is going, the fact that’s where the money is and what they can do.

‘Lower league clubs bow to it a little bit because they rely on the money from the Premier League.

‘What the answer is, I don’t know. There has to be, not a compromise, but a better way of doing things.

‘I know the EPPP was rushed in a little and they wanted to see how it went.

‘There’s going to be teething problems with everything. I’d like to think there will be some sensible amendments to come.’

Meanwhile, two of Pompey’s current starlets have been called up for England under-19 duty.

Jed Wallace and Adam Webster have made the young Three Lions squad for a European Championship qualifying tournament in Belgium later this month.

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