Youngsters on song for Pompey

Ashley Harris, left, with Steve Allen's alter-ego Holly Wigoby
Ashley Harris, left, with Steve Allen's alter-ego Holly Wigoby
Mohamed-Labib Maouche. Picture: Colin Farmery

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It was X Factor night in the Pompey camp, with contestants battling it out to be crowned the winner.

The seven youngest members of the playing group were not so much invited to audition but commanded by Michael Appleton.

And introduced by head physio Steve Allen’s alter-ego, Holly Wigoby, and produced by head of performance analysis Mark Thomas, the night proved to be a roaring success.

Even if there was plenty of acid dripping from the tongues of a judging panel consisting of Appleton, strength and conditioning coach Chris Neville and two hotel guests.

First-team coach Ashley Westwood kicked the evening off with a rendition of Is This The Way To Amarillo, before the judges had enough and buzzed in.

Then the stage was set for the seven youngsters who had spent the day being nervous wrecks.

Dan Thompson performed Bruno Mars’ Just The Way You Are, while George Colson produced an energetic version of Enrique Iglesias’ Hero.

Next up was Jed Wallace singing Ignition by R Kelly, followed by Sam Magri with another R Kelly song in World’s Greatest.

Ashley Harris, who had already changed his song numerous times in the build-up, finally plumped for Justin Bieber’s Baby and overcame his nerves with a solid performance.

Then Adam Webster had the crowd on their feet with his impressive vocal arrangement in The Script’s The Man Who Can’t Be Moved.

It prompted Appleton to advise him to give up the day job, especially following his performance against Gibraltar.

He was joined in the final by Dan Butler, who brought the house down during Eminem’s Lose Yourself, when he stripped down to a luminous green mankini.

In the end, though, it was Webster, equipped with his ever-amusing shorts, who was rightly selected as the winner.

The only problem was he had to produce an encore.

There was scandal before the auditions even took place, when it was discovered the speakers no longer worked.

Suggestions of sabotage were made, with the equipment mysteriously in fine working order when tested the previous day.

Inevitably, accusing glances were cast in the direction of the youngsters who had made no secret of their desire not to take to the stage.

Not that director Allen was going to let something as trivial as broken speakers ruin the occasion – he organised a whip-round among senior players to buy replacement ones.