POMPEY’s Academy youngsters have made their New Year’s resolution: To qualify for the Merit League.
And the battle to clinch a top-five spot in the FA Youth Alliance League south west division begins in earnest on Saturday (11am) with the visit of Swindon Town.
In terms of results-based goals, they set themselves the target of finishing high enough to get into the Merit LeaguePompey Academy coach Mikey Harris
With the Blues currently sat in sixth position, their destiny remains firmly in their own hands with two points the gap behind Oxford United, who have played two more games than Mikey Harris’ side.
Regardless, Pompey will need to be at their best to qualify for the recently-devised format which pits the best of the clubs competing in both the south west and south east divisions.
Harris said: ‘New Year gives the boys an opportunity to reflect on 2015 and also to set some new targets for 2016.
‘We had a bit of a meeting and the group came up with some of their own targets as a team and what they wanted to achieve – focusing on this month of January in particular.
‘A lot of the talk was based around improvement and leadership, which is nice because it reflects the work we have been doing with them recently.
‘In terms of results-based goals, they set themselves the target of finishing high enough to get into the Merit League.
‘It is something we have spoken about in the past.
‘We feel it’s important for their development that they are playing against the strongest possible teams.
‘It is going to be a challenge because we have three tough games left.
‘We have Swindon this weekend and then Plymouth and Newport County as well.
‘But if we can replicate the performance shown against Manchester City in the FA Youth Cup, then I don’t think we will have too much of a problem.’
Problems were encountered by the youngsters on their return to training from the festive break, though.
With the recent wet weather meaning the pitch was off limits, it was the dreaded fitness tests that lay in wait.
Harris added: ‘We got some of the fitness testing that we do post-Christmas break out of the way, which obviously is not the most enthralling thing for the lads.
‘But it’s an important part of what we do in terms of monitoring them and knowing where they are at physically.
‘It was just nice to have them back in, though, and chat about Christmas.
‘They were all in good spirits and looked fit and sharp when we got out onto the AstroTurf.’
Theo Widdrington is suspended for this weekend’s Robins clash at Furze Lane, with Eddie Wakley (ankle) to face a late fitness test.
– JEFF MARSHMAN