Pompey’s youth guru to go back to basics

Pompey product Matt Ritchie
Pompey product Matt Ritchie
Plymouth Argyle's Remi Matthews. Picture: PA Images

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Dave Hurst has pledged to kick-start the Fratton production line once again. And he is ripping up Pompey’s failing scouting system to achieve it.

Hurst has been given the role as head of Academy recruitment for next season.

He initially came out of retirement to take it on a temporary basis in February as Andy Awford sought to transform the youth set-up.

Already Hurst has overseen the addition of 13 scouts with the remit of identifying local young talent.

Previously, former head of youth operations Paul Smalley didn’t boast a single scout amid tremendous financial cutbacks. Instead he relied on tip-offs from parents and club managers to spot promising players.

Hurst believes the club are now reaping the rewards from the work he and Awford are carrying out. And the 68-year-old is going to continue to rebuild for at least another year.

He said: ‘I agreed to help Andy out until the end of the last season on an entirely voluntary basis.

‘I know him very well, love the club and wanted to give them some help. What I’ve done is organised the scouting again to get it up and running. Unfortunately, there was absolutely nothing there before.

‘When Andy took over they didn’t have a single scout. Smalley had the idea – and he was entitled to that opinion – that parents and club managers could recommend players.

‘That’s not something I agree with. You have to have scouts going out and looking at players. Word of mouth from parents and club managers has a place but if you drew a circle that would be a segment worth one per cent.

‘You never lose your contacts and when Andy brought me back I immediately got 13 lads working for us.

‘These are the same people I used to employ. They’re not paid – they do it and get given a ticket for the game and that sort of thing. That’s it.

‘They’re absolutely brilliant and hopefully as the club moves forward we will be able to do more for them.

‘At the moment they’re taking in the six-a-sides and when the season gets under way they will be at school rep games and Mid-Solent League matches on the Saturday. Then on the Sunday they will be watching local Sunday leagues in Portsmouth, Southampton, Bournemouth, Chichester and Aldershot.

‘Recruitment is vital and hopefully we will start producing again.’

Hurst served Pompey as the head of youth and chief scout over 30 years before his retirement in December 2009.

During that time he helped discover the likes of Darryl Powell, Kit Symons, Darren Anderton, Gary O’Neil, Kevin Ball, Marc Wilson, Asmir Begovic, Joel Ward and Matt Ritchie. And he is desperate to put the club back on track again.

He added: ‘We have to put back into place what we had and you can’t do that all at once. For all the criticisms that we didn’t produce players, we’ve always had one or two that have come through. Some have made careers away from Fratton Park – it’s not your fault if they are given away.

‘Just look at Asmir (Begovic) and Marc (Wilson), who were sold for millions. Things are moving forward again, which is fantastic.’