The chance for Pompey’s proud conveyor belt of talent to accelerate

ight new recruits to the Pompey Academy were revealed at Fratton Park last Friday  Picture: Colin Farmery
ight new recruits to the Pompey Academy were revealed at Fratton Park last Friday Picture: Colin Farmery
Christian Burgess, right, and Carl Baker celebrate Pompeys League Two title success

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It took constructing one of The News’ popular online quizzes to fully bring home the breadth of success.

In the wake of welcoming the next intake of Pompey scholars last Friday, it seemed the right time to delve into the paper’s archives.

The shots of fresh-faced teenagers being brought into the Blues academy as they pose at Fratton Park is an annual rite of passage, as the potential stars of tomorrow mark a key landmark and proud stepping stone in their development.

And there they were, the Class of ’17. All slim-fit suits and hair product as they were afforded a glimpse of where they could one day ply their trade.

So congrats to Bradley Lethbridge Joe Dandy, Freddie Read, Joe Hancott, Oscar Johnston, Leon Maloney, James Whiting, Josh Flint and their proud families on putting pen to paper on two-year scholarships.

They now have the chance to follow in the footsteps of a lengthy and quite remarkable conveyor belt of talent farmed out at PO4 down the years.

The challenge now is to remember quite how rich that crop of talent down the years has been.

It took a search in the picture archive at Lakeside Towers to underline that very point.

Yes, there was Joel Ward in his oversized suit back in 2004, Conor Chaplin looking sharp in a brown number from 2013 and Matt Ritchie (2006), well, looking pretty much the same as he does 11 years later.

But to acknowledge the trio as Pompey Academy flagbearers would be to overlook some whopping success stories.

Gary O’Neil was highlighted as a rare graduate from within the ranks by Harry Redknapp, as he pushed his policy of spending exorbitant transfer fees and wages on recruits.

But that would overlook the emergence of Jason Pearce who signed forms 13 years ago and has gone on to have a very decent career.

Likewise, a young Irishman by the name of Marc Wilson hasn’t done too badly from the same year group.

The previous season a young Canadian called Asmir Begovic was recruited by long-term youth supremo, Dave Hurst.

In 25 years at Fratton Park he spent just £40,000 on players, with O’Neil, Ward, Darren Anderton and Andy Awford among his legacy.

Anderton and Awford, of course, were two of Jim Smith’s fledglings from the early ’90s. Likewise, Kit Symons and Darryl Powell.

The policy of splashing the cash on signings over building infrastructure wasn’t restricted to senior level in the Premier League days.

From that period, Nadir Ciftci has gone on to have a career in the game. Shame Pompey never received a fee for him.

With the club in turmoil in 2012, Australian youngster Ryan Williams departed to Fulham for £295,000, with the Blues pursued for £360,000 by two Ausssie clubs they took six players from.

In more recent times, Adam Webster has proved a big success story after being spotted by long-term Blues man Paul Hardyman as a 10-year-old.

A cocksure youngster called Jed Wallace did pretty well after being handed a two-year deal in 2011, emerging from non-league football.

The list is by no means exhaustive. Marlon Pack, James Keene and Dan Butler are other graduates earning a career in the game today.

For Pompey to continue churning out talent since the inception of Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP) in 2011 is laudable.

The club have met the challenge of the game’s heavy-hitters being able to move in on their patch head on. In the same period, many others down the league ladder have closed their academies.

Now, with the club currently a Category Three academy we wait to see what Michael Eisner’s vision for developing young talent means for the set-up.

With such success on a relative shoestring budget down the years, Pompey may now have the chance to begin moving towards battling their geographical rivals on an even playing field for the next generation of stars. With such an impressive CV against the odds, you could imagine what sensible investment could achieve.