Pompey Academy ready for curtain raiser
Mikey Harris is happy with Pompey Academy's pre-season preparations and excited at the campaign ahead.
The Blues’ under-18s side return to Youth Alliance League action on Saturday as they host Newport Town in the south west division (11.30am).
For coach Harris, it is a return to competitive football that can’t come soon enough, with Pompey’s next crop of talented youngsters fit and ready for action.
He said: ‘We have had a really good pre-season and a good range of games.
‘We have played Forest Green, Reading’s youth team, Norwegian top-flight side Ranheim, Dorchester Town and on Tuesday we played in a game against Swansea Academy up at their training ground.
‘They put out an under-17s side but, considering half of our team were under-17s themselves, it was particularly pleasing to win 2-0.
‘We felt comfortable against a category one side and that was a good way for us to finish pre-season.’
With the summer affording the Blues’ teenage talents an opportunity for holidays and a break from their heavily-disciplined and scrutinised weekly schedules, temptation could have seen them fall foul of physical expectations upon their return.
Not at Pompey.
Harris said: ‘All credit to the lads, we give them a programme over the summer and it is painfully obvious to see if they haven’t done it!
‘They all did to be fair and all came back in great shape.
‘The second-year scholars understand how important this year is for them and the first years are a really hard-working bunch who want to give themselves the best opportunity, so they came back fit as well.
‘We were really pleased with the condition the boys came back in.
‘We have built that up over the last few weeks and are excited and ready to hitting the ground running come Saturday.’
Pompey Academy have prided themselves under Harris and boss Mark Kelly on giving the younger members of their youth-team set-up ample opportunities to impress.
That looks set to continue this term at an even faster rate than usual, with a smaller under-18s squad size set to have a knock-on effect throughout the Academy.
And for Harris, the visit of the Exiles this weekend makes for a welcome selection headache.
‘It’s always an interesting one, the first game – especially with a new group of players,’ said Harris.
‘We have a small squad this year, a lot smaller than in recent years, so I think that will provide plenty of opportunities for all of the lads.
‘We are full aware we have a very strong under-16 group as well which we are keen to push forward over the course of this season.
‘Last Friday we played against Ranheim and seven or eight of the under-16s stepped up and played and they were outstanding.’
– JEFF MARSHMAN