Portsmouth chief executive Andy Cullen casts further doubt on under-23 side at Fratton Park

Andy Cullen has cast further doubt on Pompey ever establishing an under-23 side at Fratton Park.

By Mark McMahon
Tuesday, 22nd February 2022, 5:06 pm

Speaking at the latest Tony Goodall Fans’ Conference, the Blues chief executive admitted such a set-up would not necessarily provide the necessary pathway for the club’s Category 3 academy youngsters who aspire to make it into the first team.

Instead, he said a strategy of loaning the PO4 outfit’s up-and-coming players to clubs at other levels would serve better to make the transition to the senior side easier.

Pompey currently have the likes of Haji Mnoga (Weymouth), Dan Gifford and Harvey Hughes (both Bognor) out on loan, while Harry Jewitt-White has recently returned from a spell at the Hawks.

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The concept of an under-23 team has, however, long been favoured by sections of the Fratton faithful, while former CEO Mark Catlin talked positively about the idea as recently as 2020.

But reaffirming the position held by Academy head Greg Miller when he was questioned about the possibility last June, Cullen spelt out the club’s stance on such a project.

When asked if the club had aspirations to form an under-23 side at the Tony Goodall Fans’ forum, he replied: ‘The playing pathway is key for youngsters’ development.

‘In terms of whether that should be via an under-23 side or loans into men’s football, it’s all about the games programme.

Pompey chief executive Andy Cullen Picture: Habibur Rahman

‘Though the Category 1 sides get a decent standard of under-23 games, there aren’t many Cat 2 academies or U23 sides amongst Category 3 academies, so no real games programme, so your fixtures are on an ad-hoc basis.

‘Instead, we’re looking to give our youngsters an experience of competitive men’s football in the second half of their scholarship and that will also be a consideration for first and second year pros to enable them to make the transition to first-team league football.

’A major part of our strategy will be to develop links with clubs at all levels from League Two to the Conference and below.

‘We are establishing a productive relationship with Bognor Regis and we recently had Harry Jewitt-White at Havant and Waterlooville.’