Former Pompey Academy coach to help US Portsmouth ‘start from scratch’ in building youth pathway

US Portsmouth have joined forces with a former Portsmouth Academy coach in a bid to grow the club at youth level.

Sunday, 28th February 2021, 2:01 pm
US Portsmouth under-16s celebrate winning the Portsmouth Youth League's Challenge Cup in May 2014. Frankie Paige, holding the trophy, is currently a regular in Glenn Turnbull's first team squad. Pic Mick Young.

Andy Sillence - owner of the Portsmouth-based AS Football Academy - is aiming to provide a conveyor belt of young talent for the Wessex League club.

USP are hopeful of winning promotion if the FA plough on with their restructuring of the non-league pyramid this summer.

If they do, though, they will be up against established local Wessex Premier Division clubs like AFC Portchester, Baffins Milton Rovers, Fareham Town and Horndean who all boast a range of junior sides.

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Flashback - US Portsmouth celebrate after beating Moneyfields to win the Portsmouth Youth League U16s Challenge Cup final showing United Services Portsmouth, who beat Moneyfields 3-1 in May 2012. Pic: Terry Neale

At USP, there are only only three male teams - the first team, reserves and under-18s.

USP boss Glenn Turnbull told The News last October that his club’s current model is ‘unsustainable’.

‘On the pitch, we’re a match for anyone,’ he said. ‘But off it there’s a huge gulf between us and some clubs. Portchester is unbelievable, and Baffins is unreal as well.

‘We’re a bit Wimbledon-esque in comparison to the other clubs. We do have a great spirit and camaraderie, but it’s not sustainable.

US Portsmouth U10s at a summer tournament, July 2016. Pic Mick Young

‘It might be okay for two years, five years, maybe 10 years, but we need foundations to build on.’

Sillence, who used to play football for the same Solent youth team as Turnbull, is the man who can now provide those foundations.

Sillence, 46, said: ‘I approached Glenn as I’ve known him for some time and I knew they didn’t have anything below the under-18s.

‘US used to have a lot of youth teams when my son played for Pickwick, but I don’t know what happened there.

The 2020/21 US Portsmouth under-18s, still unbeaten in their Hampshire Development East division. They also won three ties in the club's first ever FA Youth Cup campaign.

‘I asked Glenn if he fancied partnering up with a view to bringing back some of the US youth teams and providing a pathway.

‘I approached a number of clubs, but Glenn was the only one to come on board.’

The AS Football Academy, formed in 2013 as Active Soccer, has three age groups - 2-4, 5-7 and 8-11 - for what Sillence calls ‘those who just want to play for fun.’

There is also a development centre within the Academy for under-7-11s who receive more advanced coaching. Those are the players who could form the basis of the next USP generation.

Andy Sillence. Pic: Malcolm Wells.

Sillence briefly coached the Portsmouth under-7s when Dave Wright was head of the Academy at Fratton Park. When Wright moved to Brighton & Hove Albion, Sillence followed and now coaches the local Seagulls development squad based at Cowplain.

Players from Sillence’s Academy have been signed by Portsmouth, Southampton, Brighton, Bournemouth and Chelsea.

The USP link is his third local partnership - he also has one with Gosport Seagulls Youth FC and the Portsmouth-based City Ladies FC

Turnbull said: ‘Andy will bring the players and hopefully the club can start to build youth teams from them.

‘Andy’s got a good success rate of getting kids into pro clubs.

‘This is a long-term plan - potentially it will take 10 years to get a youth team player.

‘We are literally building from scratch, we are starting at the bottom. It’s like building a house - you need to put the foundations in place.

‘It’s minimal investment from us - a bag of balls, some cones, bibs - and hopefully we will reap the benefits.’

All three USP male teams were doing well prior to the current lockdown:

The first team were fourth in Division 1 of the Wessex Division 1, and through to the fourth round of the FA Vase and the Wessex League Cup semi-finals.

The reserves were top of the Hampshire Combination Premier Division, having not lost a game.

The Under-18s are still unbeaten in the Hampshire Development U18 East Division, and also defeated Brockenhurst, Fareham and Weymouth in their first ever FA Youth Cup campaign.

The USP women’s team were also going well, boasting the only 100 per cent record in Division 1 of the Hampshire County Women’s League.

Turnbull is well aware that a flourishing youth system not only provides a good pathway into the first team; it is also a vehicle to increase interest in the club and boost finances.

‘I have seen what happens at Moneys, they have a lot of youth teams that generate money for the club,’ he said.

‘They also generate interest. Moneys do it really well, they have youth players as mascots and that in turns brings parents and grandparents along.

‘All of a sudden, you’ve made an extra £30/40 from seeing little Joey being a mascot or a ball boy.’