Crunch time approaching for fledgling Pompey talents

Pompey's second-year scholars back in 2016 when they signed up. Picture: Colin Farmery
Pompey's second-year scholars back in 2016 when they signed up. Picture: Colin Farmery
Robbie Blake. Picture: Joe Pepler

First-team coach leaves Pompey for Bognor

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Mark Kelly admits crunch time is approaching for Pompey Academy’s second-year scholars.

But the Blues youth chief insisted the club will do everything in their power to help the fledgling talents play as high up the football pyramid as possible if they are released.

The academy are into the business end of the season.

In the next coming months, Jack Collins, Matt Casey, Jack Chandler, Jordan Brooks, Dan Smith and Matt Mayes will find out if they have earned a professional contract at Fratton Park or not.

It’s highly unlikely all six will be offered a deal, with Pompey not having an under-23s development squad in place.

Kelly revealed the second-year scholars are entering a crucial period.

He saluted the commitment shown by the group who signed apprenticeships in the summer of 2016 and is adamant those not so lucky will get all of the assistance required.

‘It’s coming down to a crucial time for the second years in their scholarship journey, that’s for sure,’ the Blues’ youth chief said.

‘They are all great kids and they all understand.

‘Everyone of them will try to perform to the best of their ability.

‘It is a hard time for them as they’re coming up to a time – over the next couple of months – when they’re going to know what their future is at the football club.

‘Football is all about journeys as well and where their levels lie.

‘They’re fully aware of it and they understand it.

‘The lads are never off the front foot but everyone has to appreciate what levels the lads can compete at and deal with where they are and where they’ve been.

‘We will keep building on it and try to get them to the place where they can be.’

All of the second years except Collins featured in Pompey Reserves’ 2-1 win at Barnsley under-23s in the Premier League Cup on Monday.

Smith equalised at Oakwell, netting his second goal in as many games since being named on the bench for the first team’s loss at Bristol Rovers on New Year’s Day.

Kelly believes the winger has found the consistency required to move forward – and has challenged his troops to follow the same path.

He added: ‘It’s all about consistency. If you play 10 good games in the youth team, it shows you are becoming consistent, likewise in the reserves at that level.

‘Consistency is everything if you want to move forward in the game.

‘The lads all understand that. Smudge is doing that at the moment. He’s doing that but it’s the same for them all.’