Mikey Harris is delighted with how Pompey Academy’s first-year scholars have coped with the demands of football on a full-time basis.
Eight fledgling talents signed youth deals with the Blues in June as they continue their path towards the first team.
Joe Dandy, Josh Flint, Joe Hancott, Oscar Johnston, Bradley Lethbridge, Leon Maloney, Freddie Read and James Whiting joined the Pompey ranks and have become key players for coach Harris and academy chief Mark Kelly’s troops this season.
It’s been a period of transition for the youngsters but Harris believes they have made it seamlessly.
He said: ‘They’ve all settled in really well.
‘There’s always challenges for the first years coming out of school into a full-time environment.
‘It is very demanding physically and mentally.
‘People probably look at it and think all they do is play football for a couple of hours a day.
‘That’s not the case at all with the apprenticeship programme.
‘They have a full-time education programme and an extensive gym programme which is very demanding, and then there’s the training and games programme.
‘It’s a challenging environment in the most competitive industry in sport.
‘If you look at how many people set out to be a professional footballer and then see how many people actually make it, you’ve got to put it up there with one of the most competitive industries in the contest.’
Many of the academy’s squad are made up of first-year scholars and had the chance to train with the senior team this year.
Hancott has already made his first-team debut – in Pompey’s 3-3 Checkatrade Trophy draw against Fulham under-21s last month,
The Isle of Wight talent became the club’s youngest-ever player at the age of 16 years and 161 days – beating former Fratton Park favourite Gary O’Neil’s record.
Although the youngsters go from school to full-time football, they are not given a complete shock.
While still in school, they spend one day a week at Pompey’s Roko training base to blood in.
‘It does come as a shock, but they know what they’re getting into,’ added Harris.
‘In terms of educating them at schoolboy level, the lads are in one day a week on day release and come out of school.
‘They train with us and they have an awareness of the environment they are coming into.
‘They get that taster at under-15s and under-16s where they know what the ask is.’