MIKEY HARRIS has told Pompey’s Academy players: Take inspiration from what you are witnessing at this club.
The advice from the under-18s coach came in the wake of the Blues’ 2-1 loss to Northampton Town in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy at Fratton Park on Tuesday night.
Sat up in the stands were the current crop of Academy youngsters, hoping to follow in the footsteps of five others who tasted first-team action in the narrow loss.
Nick Awford, Dan Butler, Ben Close, Jed Wallace and Adam Webster were all involved in a proud – if frustrating – night for the hosts.
And with fellow graduate Bradley Tarbuck an unused substitute, the message received and relayed by Harris to his players was loud and clear.
He said: ‘In terms of seeing the Academy lads progress through and play at Fratton Park for the first team – that is the goal for all of the boys here coming through.
‘That’s certainly the goal for us as the Academy staff also – to try to produce players who can play in Andy’s first team.
‘And for so many of them to get on the pitch on Tuesday night and do themselves justice was great.
‘For me, it gives good inspiration to the lads we have got in the Academy at the moment that we have got that opportunity.
‘Being honest, at other clubs, that opportunity is a lot harder to come by.
‘Andy, as former Academy manager, along with Macca (Alan McLouglin) and Hards (Paul Hardyman) who worked alongside him then and now on the first-team staff, are always more likely to give young players opportunities.
‘That is because they know them, they’ve worked with them and invested a lot of time in them.’
And for Harris, the idea the club should be producing and fielding homegrown talent makes perfect sense.
He said: ‘I think it’s great and in terms of where the football club is now – a supporter-owned community football club – we have got to be producing players from the local area.
‘You cut them and they bleed blue – that is what it is all about.
‘You need that hardcore who understand what it means to play for Pompey and how much it means to the fans.
‘The more you can get in your team with that understanding then the better in my opinion.
‘The Academy lads were all there watching on Tuesday night and a lot of them were season-ticket holders before they played for us.
‘That just shows what this city and this club is about.’
Pompey Academy return to Youth Alliance League south west division action at Swindon Town on Saturday.
The Blues welcome back Brandon Joseph-Buadi and Kaleem Haitham from shin injuries.