THE DREAM of making the grade at Pompey has moved a step closer.
But the latest crop of young talent aiming to carve out a career in the game have been warned: The hard work starts now.
Jordan Brooks, Matthew Casey, Jack Chandler, Jack Collins, Matt Mayes and Dan Smith, all 16, are the Academy’s latest first-year apprentices.
They are celebrating signing two-year deals, and coach Mikey Harris believes they are equipped with the tools to continue progressing.
Harris ran the rule over the players, with West Sussex goalkeeper Collins out to challenge current keeper Nick Hall.
‘Jack played several games for the youth team last season and did fantastically well,’ said Harris.
‘He’s got a lot of good attributes for a keeper and he’ll be pushing Nick Hall all the way for the No1 Jersey.’
Portsmouth right-back Chandler will offer a forward-thinking threat.
Harris explained: ‘Jack is an attack-minded right-back who’s very quick.
‘He’s got some good quality on the ball and used to play higher up the pitch.
‘Jack can certainly give us something going forward and is an exciting player.’
Botley’s Casey will add a physical threat along with decent ball-playing ability.
The Academy coach added: ‘Matt is a centre-half and is about 6ft 5in and huge for his age. He’s certainly got the height advantage but he is also a very good footballer.
‘Matt’s deserving of his space on the apprenticeship and we look forward to seeing how he develops.’
Harris wants London’s Brooks to bring his influence to the middle of the park.
He said: ‘Jordan is a central midfielder and quite a versatile player. He’s a good athlete and has a great attitude.
‘Jordan has a good physical presence and we will be looking for him to stamp his authority on games.’
Warsash midfielder Smith is tasked with letting his creative talent shine.
‘Dan is an attacking midfielder and he’s a very creative player,’ added Harris.
‘He’s capable of opening up defences and he’s come on a lot over the past couple of years.
‘We’ll be looking for him to chip on and keep creating things.
And Portsmouth striker Mayes, like all of the apprentices, is being challenged to show his quality consistently.
‘Matt is a centre-forward and he’s very mobile. Matt has good movement and is good at linking play,’ said the coach.
‘He’s a capable player who can score goals, so he ticks a lot of boxes. The challenge for Matt, like all of the boys, is to consistently do it at the next level.’
With the Academy back in training, there’s little time for the players to savour the moment before getting ready for the new season.
Harris said: ‘There’s a few in the group who have been at the club for a long time.
‘That’s obviously nice for them to come through and do it together.
‘It’s a smaller intake than recent years, but we do feel we have to go with quality over quantity. The standard to reach the first team is rising every year. It’s an exciting time for these lads, a moment to enjoy – but now the work starts.’