Mikey Harris has welcomed Pompey Academy’s return to competitive action as they get their Merit League campaign under way at AFC Wimbledon on Saturday (11am).
The Blues’ under-18s have been without a fixture since January 23, after ending their FA Youth Alliance League south west division season with a 3-1 win over Newport County.
It will be a good test and one we look forward toPompey Academy coach Mikey Harris
Results elsewhere went in Harris’ side’s favour to ensure a Merit League spot, as they now prepare to tackle the best their neighbouring south east division has to offer in a reduced 10-game format.
First up is a trip to the Dons, who head into the game fresh from a 4-1 midweek defeat to Chelsea in the FA Youth Cup.
Harris said: ‘For the boys, it is all about playing games.
‘That is what they want to do.
‘It will be a tough game against AFC Wimbledon on Saturday.
‘They are on the back of an FA Youth Cup game with Chelsea in midweek.
‘Chelsea won 4-1 but it was 1-1 at half-time so that shows they can compete with one of the country’s top academies.
‘I know their coach Robbo (Mark Robinson) really well – he is a very good coach.
‘And they have a very good record of producing players.
‘It will be a good test and one we look forward to.
‘They are always a decent club to play – and hopefully we can perform well there.’
Harris expects to name a mixed line-up as under-16s players are called on to step up to the mantle, alongside first and second-year scholars.
That’s after the under-18s coach saw a number of his Academy talents impress in the Blues’ development game with Reading in midweek – which ended in a 3-1 win for Ian Foster’s side.
‘We will have a mix of under-16s, first-year scholars and second-year scholars at the weekend,’ said Harris.
‘It will be good to see how that works out.
‘The boys have been training well recently.
‘We had a development game on Tuesday and a few of them were involved.
‘Theo Widdrington played 90 minutes as a first-year scholar, which is obviously a big achievement for him and he did very, very well.
‘All of the boys did well and if you look at the spine of the team, the development side had Alex Bass in goal, Theo at centre-half, Adam May and Christian Oxlade-Chamberlain in the middle and Conor Chaplin up front.
‘The team had a very good Academy spine to it, past and present, which was nice.
‘And hopefully some more of the first-year scholars, like Theo, will get to experience development football alongside some of our senior players between now and the end of the season.’
– JEFF MARSHMAN
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