Pompey boss: Necessity for experience means youth decisions
KENNY JACKETT is targeting a summer influx of maturity and experience as he ravamps his Pompey squad.
It’s a policy which signalled the Fratton Park departure of Theo Widdrington – with other promising talent also under threat.
The first-year professional has not been retained, ending a Blues association stretching back more than a decade.
The decision is driven by Jackett’s desire to possess more first-team ready alternatives as he strives to build on his maiden Pompey season.
Midfield, in particular, is a congested area in youth terms, with Adam May and Ben Close already offering options, with more experienced players essential.
Others to have emerged through the academy system and up for renewal are May, Alex Bass, Brandon Haunstrup, Jez Bedford and Christian Oxlade-Chamberlain.
And in the ongoing absence of a development group, Jackett is only too aware of the necessity to balance youth with experience.
The Blues boss said: ‘A top-10 finish looks likely this year and if we want to improve we need to go better next year.
‘And I didn’t feel Theo could go straight into the 18 next season.
‘Obviously, he would be underneath Close, May and Danny Rose – but we also need some fresh energy and signings in that particular area.
‘I couldn’t see Theo being included in the first-team group, that was the reason. He’s certainly a year or two off maybe being a first-team player at our level.
‘He can make it through, but without a development group I felt it was best we let him move on.
‘We couldn’t just wait for the end of three years here full-time and then pushing people out of the way in terms of the first team, which he still might go on to do.
‘There is big development between players aged 21-23 and that is four or so years away for Theo.
‘If we are looking at contracted players, potentially there’s Close, Rose and May, while Donohue can play in there, so we are looking at strengthening in that area – we need to.
‘To put in another younger player and then expect 20-30 games and also the top six wasn’t the case. There was no place necessarily for Theo, while I just didn’t think going out on loan would be the best thing for either party.
‘For him, the best thing was he goes on his way – and I am sure he’ll have a good future.’
Brighton has been mentioned as a potential destination for the free agent.
Former academy under-18s coach Mikey Harris now serves at the Premier League club and knows all about Widdrington’s talents.
And Jackett is adamant it was his decision – not the player’s – for the exit.
He added: ‘It was definitely my decision.
‘There was some interest from Brighton, I don’t know whether he is going there or not, they obviously has a development group.
‘There is no reason why Theo can’t make it in the Football League. If you look at many players, once they get into their mid-20s they’ve had different paths.’