Kelly: Christmas break right for Pompey Academy not first team

Pompey Academy boss Mark Kelly   Picture: Joe Pepler
Pompey Academy boss Mark Kelly Picture: Joe Pepler
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Pompey’s Academy youngsters are off on their Christmas break – and youth-team boss Mark Kelly believes it is right they are given time to rest and recuperate.

Conversations around the modern professional game have thrown up the idea of a winter break in English football.

But while Kelly, like first-team manager Paul Cook, thinks it is both unlikely and unneccessary to happen, he is certain the Blues’ young players need the chance to regroup with family and friends over the festive period.

‘The boys are off on a two-week break and back in early January,’ said Kelly.

‘We will get them in and gear up for the first game back, which is in the first week of the new year.

‘They have a few days off with their families.

‘And at their age they need a little bit of down time.

‘We still have a little bit of work to do as a staff before we clear out, though!

‘But those boys are rightly on their break – they need it.

‘You have to remember the amount of training and travelling they do and the number of games they play.

‘They need to recover.

‘And that time with family over Christmas is valuable to them.

‘You can’t underestimate that – they need to be young men.’

Kelly insists the nation’s thirst for football, though, makes it unlikely Pompey’s first team will be afforded time off over the festive period any time soon.

He said: ‘The first team have to be in over Christmas because they play Boxing Day.

‘There is this discussion in professional football as to whether there should be a winter break or not?

‘The great tradition in this country is people like to go to the football on Boxing Day.

‘They like their games over Christmas and the New Year.

‘It is what it is – we are in that industry and I can’t see that changing.’

Former Republic of Ireland international Kelly emerged through the Blues’ youth-team set-up himself in the late 1980’s but believes the differences between Academy and senior football are marked – and should be treated as such.

He added: ‘At youth-team level your body is still adapting to the demands of the game.

‘When you have been in professional football for two or three years like Conor Chaplin now has, your body is getting used to the impact.

‘But it is very rare nowadays that young professionals play week in, week out at first-team level.

‘Look at Conor, he is in the squad all of the time but he is not necessarily running.

‘The Academy boys, to be fair are constantly playing.

‘They don’t get that rest period – so it does them good when they do.’

– JEFF MARSHMAN