Portsmouth boss lifts lid on battle with Premier League clubs to keep Academy starlet at Fratton Park

Danny Cowley has revealed Pompey fought off interest from Premier League clubs to secure the future of Toby Steward.

Monday, 14th February 2022, 11:30 am

Under the Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP), clubs are susceptible to approaches from Category 1 Academies for promising players aged 16 and below.

Effectively, top clubs can buy talented youngsters they have identified through a fee set by a fixed tariff.

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And Cowley is delighted to have kept a talent who has attended several England youth training camps this season.

He told The News: ‘We didn't want to shout our talented young players from the rooftops, but as soon as they get into the England set-up then it kind of alerts everybody and it makes it tough.

‘Toby is in and around their training camps, which is really good recognition for him. It’s great that we’re able to communicate with England and we can both look at his development plans and work towards finding his potential.

‘There has also been some interest in Toby from Premier League clubs, so I am led to believe.

Toby Steward has been on Pompey's bench seven times this season as a 16-year-old, most recently at Sunderland last month. Picture: Daniel Chesterton/phcimages.com

‘Up until they are 16, they can take them from us. Getting them onto a professional contract is the key part because otherwise clubs take them on EPPP money.

‘There’s always a concern that can happen up until that contract is signed, but thankfully we have secured Toby’s future at this club.

‘I am always cautious with the young ones, you will never hear me shout it from the rooftops because we have a tendency in this country to build them up and then knock them down. I don’t want to do that.

‘Toby is a young player, he has done really, really well, and we see the potential in him. The aim for Toby now is to make sure his work ethic matches his talent.

‘If he does that then he’s got every chance.’

Steward, who is still regarded as a first-year scholar, turned in an impressive performance in a Pompey XI triumph at AFC Stoneham on Wednesday night.

And Cowley is already eyeing a loan spell away from Fratton Park next season to boost the keeper’s development.

He added: ‘Toby trains with the first-team most days, unless they are doing some tactical work in the lead up to an Academy game.

‘In an ideal world, the pathway for him is to go out and play regularly because that’s how they develop.

‘So we will try to find a pathway for him, that will certainly be my aim.’

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