Cotterill backs bright Academy future

112755-955_BORO_POMPEY_SR_6/8/11'Pompey vs Middlesborough at the Riverside Stadium.'Ryan Williams.''Picture:Steve Reid 112755-955
112755-955_BORO_POMPEY_SR_6/8/11'Pompey vs Middlesborough at the Riverside Stadium.'Ryan Williams.''Picture:Steve Reid 112755-955
Pompey boss Kenny Jackett. Picture: Joe Pepler

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Investment in youth development ranks high on Convers Sports Initiatives’ Pompey wish list.

Yet Steve Cotterill believes there is already enough in place to be optimistic over the Academy’s future.

Andy Awford has transformed the youth set-up since taking over the reins alongside Paul Hardyman in January.

The Blues legend has ripped up the model installed by predecessor Paul Smalley.

That has prompted an improvement in the youngsters’ performance levels, accompanied by an upturn in results.

Australian winger Ryan Williams has already gone on to make his first-team debut this season.

Defenders Sam Magri and Adam Webster have turned out in Pompey friendlies.

In addition, the highly-regarded Jed Wallace was recently captured from Lewes.

All are aged 17 or below.

They are part of a young crop of players who have caught Cotterill’s eye.

These are obviously still early days.

Too many bright prospects in football drift away as unfulfilled talent.

Yet Pompey’s manager remains excited about the potential of the present bunch.

Cotterill said: ‘We could now pick a team of 16-17 year olds who could beat that batch I inherited when I first came here, for sure.

‘Looking back, everyone else and all the foreign players I had back then were on extortionate amounts of money for young players.

‘Yet they were never good enough.

‘That is nothing personal against any of those lads, it’s just the batch we’ve got now are better.

‘The ones we’ve got now are worth spending time with – and are probably about a sixth or eighth of the price.

‘Our biggest prospects are the likes of Jed Wallace, Adam Webster, Ryan Williams and Sam Magri.

‘There are others as well.

‘For me, our 16 year olds last year were better in my eyes than what I’ve had since I have been at this football club.

‘Hence, that is why Adam will come and train with us and why Ryan trains with us and is on the bench.

‘Sam doesn’t train with us all the time but I want him to get up to speed first of all.

‘He has started to train with us a lot more regularly now after having a three-week break.

‘Jed is with the youth team on a regular basis and playing with them. That is what we need him to do.

‘We need him to come to the club, settle down and go training with the youth team.

‘They are only young boys, but we haven’t had enough of these types.’

Owners Roman Dubov and Vladimir Antonov this week publicly stated their desire to invest in the youth set-up.

That is welcome news to supporters, who recognise the importance of bringing through home-grown talent.

Cott-erill has been highly critical of the system in the past.

At the start of last season he oversaw the mutual consent departures of the likes of Gael Nlundulu, Gauthier Mahoto and Jordan Hughes.

Come the end of the campaign, first-year professionals Perry Ryan, Billy Goddard, Ellis Martin and Peter Gregory were also released.

Cotterill’s view was that none of those were of the required standard for his Pompey team.

And he does not want a repeat of that scenario.

He added: ‘It is from the age of 16-17 that you want to start looking at the lads.

‘Not from the age of 18 when they are out there training with the squad and, in my opinion, are not good enough.

‘What I’ve said is I don’t want to have four young lads in the situation like I had last year.

‘I didn’t think any of those lads were going to make it here and made that perfectly clear.

‘A couple of them turned down the opportunity to go on loan.

‘I don’t know why, perhaps they thought they were too good for that level because they were at Portsmouth.

‘They stayed here, stayed here and stayed here all season and then struggled to get clubs.

‘I know Perry (Ryan) got one in the end in Havant & Waterlooville, but I don’t know where the other lads are.’