Pompey young guns challenged to make senior grade
Pompey's emerging academy talent have been tasked with making the grade at senior level.
The Blues’ second-year scholars have all been sent out on loan to pick up first-team minutes over the Christmas period.
With no game until travelling to Swindon on January 6, a quintet of players have been sent out on work experience at non-league sides.
Matt Mayes, Dan Smith and Matt Casey have all moved to Southern League outfit Gosport Borough.
They have been followed this week by Jordan Brooks and Jack Chandler, who have joined Wessex League side Alton Town.
Academy head of coaching Shaun North believes the experience will be useful to the players’ development.
He said: ‘It’s about getting them out to play in senior football with men. That’s the next challenge for them – they need the next test.
‘Ideally, if we had an under-23s playing regularly, they’d be in that.
‘We haven’t got those regular fixtures as an option, so the next best thing is to get them out at somewhere like Gosport.
‘You’re getting them out at a good level against senior players.
‘Can they cope with the physical challenge? But it’s also can they cope with the fact they have to try to win?
‘We always play to win, of course, but there’s the safety net of it being youth football. At senior level, if they don’t win the manager’s going to be under pressure. Even at that level.’
North explained the club will be keeping close tabs on the players – as is the case with the young pros away from Fratton Park.
Theo Widdrington, Christian Oxlade-Chamberlain and Jez Bedford are gaining National League South minutes.
He said: ‘It’s work experience, so they can play for us and them.
‘I’ll be watching them all, too. There are plenty of games to go to see them coming up.
‘It’s no good them going out and leaving them alone. You have to invest the time to watch them.’