The sad demise of the costliest youth team in Pompey’s history

082784-1_pompey 01/07/08 (IH)''Pompey's latest intake of apprentices. (left to right back), Gaulthier Tahoto, Peter Gregory, Max Carter, Gael Nlundulu, Perry Ryan, Ellis Martin, Ciftci Nadir. Front, Pandor Dominique, James Hurst, Lennard Sowah, Liam O'Brien, Nick Watts, Dan Bogard, Billy Goddard.'PICTURE: IAN HARGREAVES (082784-1)

082784-1_pompey 01/07/08 (IH)''Pompey's latest intake of apprentices. (left to right back), Gaulthier Tahoto, Peter Gregory, Max Carter, Gael Nlundulu, Perry Ryan, Ellis Martin, Ciftci Nadir. Front, Pandor Dominique, James Hurst, Lennard Sowah, Liam O'Brien, Nick Watts, Dan Bogard, Billy Goddard.'PICTURE: IAN HARGREAVES (082784-1)

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They were the most expensively-assembled youth team in Pompey history.

But three years on, none of the class of 2008 remain at Fratton Park.

It was an era when millions of pounds was lavished upon trying to attract Europe’s top young playing talent to the Blues.

Former owner Sacha Gaydamak was the man who ordered a complete overhaul of the academy set-up.

And, crucially, he injected the finances to achieve it.

Today, sadly, no legacy remains.

The departure of Nadir Ciftci severs the final tie with that 2008 squad which was anticipated to provide the next generation of Pompey stars.

He was one of five players bought by the Blues in deals totalling in excess of £1m.

Now the 19-year-old is off to Turkey, having snubbed a new deal.

No transfer fee will be involved.

Instead, the club will receive a contribution in recognition of the work they put into the player’s development.

Other members of that line-up have also left Fratton Park in the past week.

Perry Ryan, Billy Goddard, Ellis Martin and Peter Gregory were informed their contracts were not being renewed.

The remainder of the class of 2008 had left long before.

Liam O’Brien, Gael Nlundulu, Gauthier Mahoto, James Hurst – gone. All gone.

In their cases, highly-regarded young talent each bought for hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Less than three years later, they departed for absolutely nothing.

Well, in terms of transfer fees, that is.

The youngsters did receive a windfall in the form of compromise agreements following the cancellation of their contracts early.

Gaydamak’s overhaul of Pompey’s youth development system included the recruitment of Paul Hart, who had been hugely successful in bringing through the likes of Alan Smith, Harry Kewell and Paul Robinson – among other household names – at Leeds.

Before Gaydamak’s revamp, Dave Hurst was Pompey’s youth supremo.

In 25 years at the club, he spent a total of just £40,000 on players.

A chunk of that was given to Lisburn Youth in Northern Ireland for a promising player called Marc Wilson.

He also recruited the likes of Asmir Begovic, Gary O’Neil, Andy Awford, Darren Anderton and Joel Ward without the war chest his successors would enjoy.

Hurst’s biggest budget was £410,000 for the 2005-06 campaign – his last before retirement.

That was used to fund wages, coach travel, kit and suchlike.

Reportedly, when James Hurst arrived from West Brom in the summer of 2008, it cost £500,000.

Ultimately, the former England under-17 defender’s fate would prove to be the most disappointing of those members of the class of 2008.

A questionable attitude came to light last year when he was suspended by the club and ordered to train on his own.

That was after posting on Facebook he hoped Pompey lost against Arsenal that weekend.

Hurst spent last summer on loan at Icelandic side IBV – a move arranged by Hermann Hreidarsson.

He returned to have his contract cancelled by mutual consent, paving the way for a return to West Brom.

Now 19, he made his Premier League debut in January, starting against Fulham.

O’Brien was a starlet who arrived from QPR in February 2008 for a fee of approximately £180,000.

However, the England under-19 keeper failed to impress Pompey’s coaching staff this season and had his contract cancelled by mutual consent in October.

He joined Barnet in January and went on to make eight first-team appearances this season. Mahoto was reportedly bought for £600,000 and presented with a £1,700-a-week contract when he arrived from Le Havre.

Pompey still owed the French club £90,761 when they went into administration.

Mahoto endured a troubled time at Fratton Park and was loaned to SC Bastia at one point and also spent time at AEK Athens.

His contract was eventually cancelled by mutual consent in September.

Then there was former France under-17 midfielder Nlundulu – an acquisition from Paris St Germain.

Another awarded wages of £1,700-a-week, the club even brought his family over from France, providing accommodation for them in Southsea.

His contract was cancelled by mutual consent in September, prompting a move to Nantes.

He is currently with Swiss second division side Lausanne-Sport, signed until the end of the 2011-12 season.

Others such as Max Carter, Dominique Pandor, Nick Watts and Dan Bogard similarly failed to emerge from that 2008 set-up.

At least Pompey did make money on Lenny Sowah – although he was one player they wanted to keep.

Having failed to win an apprenticeship at Arsenal, he was recruited by the Blues.

And he went on to become one of Pompey’s youngest-ever first teamers.

But in July 2010 he was out of contract and moved to Hamburg, with the Blues receiving £146,656 in compensation.

He is not alone in having a footballing future away from Fratton Park, though.

After all, three years later the entire class of 2008 have followed suit.

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