Scourge of Academy highlights power of high-flying clubs

Sam Gallagher heads home a goal against Pompey Academy in the FA Youth Cup earlier this season. Picture: Barry Zee
Sam Gallagher heads home a goal against Pompey Academy in the FA Youth Cup earlier this season. Picture: Barry Zee
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Pompey Academy’s nemesis has now moved up a level to taunt Premier League defences.

These days Sam Gallagher is making the starting line-up for Southampton against champions-elect Arsenal.

For Paul Hardyman, the 18-year-old striker reflects the recruitment chasm in modern football which has left the Blues lagging behind.

Southampton signed Gallagher from Plymouth’s academy in April 2012.

Last month he scored a hat-trick for Jason Dodd’s side in the 7-0 FA Youth Cup demolition of their neighbours.

There was a time when Pompey were in the Premier League and similarly paying money for promising youngsters under Paul Hart.

None came off.

Yet the concept of raiding other clubs across the country for talent considerably younger than Gallagher is not one Hardyman agrees with.

The Academy coach said: ‘Gallagher has done alright for Southampton, although they paid quite a few quid for him from Plymouth.

‘That was what we were trying to do in the Premier League when Paul Hart was here, paying money to sign the likes of James Hurst, Liam O’Brien, Tom Kilbey, Gauthier Mahoto and Gael N’Lundulu.

‘These days, though, clubs can go anywhere in the country and recruit anyone.

‘Basically the top clubs can raid the lower ones.

‘You get clubs putting in bids for players as young as nine or 10.

‘It really is scary how they can come in and cherry pick your talent now.

‘I’ve even heard of a team on the continent taking under-sixes.

‘I think it is wrong. I don’t see the benefit of a 12-year-old taken away from his local environment to go and play for another club.

‘It is ridiculous. The world has gone mad.

‘Kids should be available to develop in their own back yard and to get a bit of loyalty back in the world.

‘Support your local team and you should want to play for that team.

‘If there are circumstances where the club does not want you or accepts an offer for you that is different.

‘But surely every kid born in and around Portsmouth would want to play for their local club.’

In recent years, Academy keepers Tom Fry (Crystal Palace) and Stuart Moore (Reading) have been sold by Pompey.

And Hardyman remembers an under-12 player, Jesse Starkey, recruited by Chelsea five years ago.

He said: ‘We sold him to Chelsea – he has now been released in the second year of his scholarship.

‘What has been gained from that?

‘Chelsea have spent quite a few quid, while the lad has played for Chelsea but what has it achieved?

‘He is now at Brighton but so many have the bright lights put in front of them and it gets them.’