Former Pompey man relishing new role in Shanghai

Gary Wheatcroft. Picture: Malcolm McCluskey
Gary Wheatcroft. Picture: Malcolm McCluskey
Pompey defend before their clash with Wycombe in 2013 is abandoned. Picture: Joe Pepler

An occasion to join match days of Pompey legend

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Gary Wheatcroft is out to nurture the next generation of Chinese footballing talent.

The former Pompey man is heading out to the far east on Monday to become director of football at the newly-founded Shanghai City Youth Football Club.

Wheatcroft, 57, from Fratton, has a wealth of experience to call on.

He was a member of the Blues’ academy before moves to Southampton and Dutch outfit HFC Haarlem – where he played alongside Ruud Gullit.

However, his career was ended prematurely by an ankle injury.

After hanging up his boots, Wheatcroft managed non-league clubs Arundel, Midhurst and Hythe & Dibden, while also coaching in Seattle, USA with Alan Ball’s son, Jimmy.

Now he has been head-hunted to run the Shanghai City Youth Football Academy and he is relishing the opportunity.

Wheatcroft said: ‘I’m over the moon to get the job. It is a great opportunity for me.

‘Rome wasn’t built in a day and I suspect it will be a culture shock when I get over there.

‘It’s one of the best cities in the world now.

‘I’ve been given a 12-month contract, which could then end up between five and seven years.

‘We will be happy if we have 40 to 50 kids to start with but within six weeks we will have more than 200, I suspect.’

Although the country has not got a rich footballing history, the Chinese Super League has sparked an enthusiasm for the sport.

The likes of Carlos Tevez, Oscar and Hulk are just three global stars who have moved to the far east on lucrative deals.

However, Wheatcroft does not see pouring huge amounts of cash into attracting foreign players as the direction the country should be heading.

Instead, he sees developing the native talents as the path they should follow.

And he hopes he can produce some young stars who go on to play in China’s national side.

Wheatcroft added: ‘China have said they want to win the World Cup in 32 years but they won’t be winning any competition by paying Carlos Tevez £650k per week.

‘My philosophy is ensuring players come through the ranks.

‘I’ve been a pro and I know what I need to do with the youngsters to develop them.

‘I’m going to be starting off kids with the ball at their feet all of the time.

‘There will be no running. Instead they will be improving skills and running with the ball – just getting used to them having the ball at their feet.

‘I’ll probably find a few aren’t too bad. You never know, there might be a few of them in the China national team in the future.’