Portsmouth defender was 'knocked for six' by surprise release - but remains determined to achieve his dream

Harry Kavanagh admitted he was ‘knocked for six’ after being told about his surprise Pompey release.

Wednesday, 26th May 2021, 4:55 am
Updated Wednesday, 26th May 2021, 7:48 am

The right-back was among a number of youngsters who were shown the exit door last month amid an academy player overhaul.

Kavanagh captained the Blues' under-18s last season, with his eye-catching progress earning him third-year scholarship terms.

This campaign, he made two appearances in the Papa John's Trophy, as well as regularly training with the first team and serving as 19th man on one occasion.

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Harry Kavanagh in action for Pompey at Peterborough in the Papa John's Trophy. Picture: Nigel Keene

The former Cowplain School pupil also impressed on loan at Gosport Borough before the coronavirus pandemic curtailed non-elite sport.

Kavanagh had been with his boyhood club since the age of six and is a former North Stand season-ticket owner.

The 19-year-old revealed he held talks with former manager Kenny Jackett about extending his stay, while academy staff also wanted him to be handed fresh terms.

Yet Kavanagh was left disappointed by how circumstances suddenly changed.

Harry Kavanagh warms up when serving as 19th man for Pompey. Picture: Dennis Goodwin

He told The News: ‘It was probably the worst conversation I've ever had. It was horrible.

‘I thought I'd done enough to get more time but other people obviously thought otherwise and the club seems like they want to go in a different direction.

‘Since around Christmas, I was told by a lot of staff that I was going to be all right. I'd been with the first team all year and had good conversations with Kenny when he was here. Everything seemed positive and I'd spoken to Mark Kelly (player development manager), who wanted to give me a new contract

‘Then two days before the decision was made, I had a conversation with Jon Slater (former interim academy manager) asking for me to come in for a meeting. I could tell he was really off by the sound of his voice.

‘The academy staff said they were pushing hard for a new contract but it wasn't to be.

‘Danny Cowley said afterwards that he'd not made the decisions as he wasn't sure he'd be at the club next season and was gutted for me being at Pompey for 13 years.

‘I respect the decision but not necessarily the manner it was given to us lads who were released. It's not nice but I'm looking forward to a new adventure.

‘It's been a tough season not playing a lot of football. Kenny was really good when he was here, saying to myself and Alfie Stanley that although we didn't have many games coming up, it was a chance to build up physically in the gym.

‘That's what we both did every day. We were the first in the morning and last to leave.

‘It's not been a great year but I've kept positive. Maybe I should have been a bit more prepared if I'm honest because it knocked me for six.

'Nevertheless, I'm still going to pursue a career because I’ve put too much into it now and will keep pushing.’

Kavanagh will always feel a huge amount of pride to have fulfilled a lifelong dream by pulling on the star and crescent.

His debut arrived against West Ham under-21s at Fratton Park in November before he faced a full-strength Peterborough side two months later, which ended in a 5-1 defeat.

Now the defender is preparing for the chapter of his career.

A drop to non-league is looking more likely than joining an under-23s set-up, with Kavanagh craving regular competitive action once more after a disrupted 2020-21 season.

And his aim is to very much break back into the Football League

Kavanagh added: ‘Against Peterborough, I played right-wing back, which is my position. That was always going to be a tough game when they had a full-strength side out.

‘In the West Ham game and for reserves, I was never really given a chance to play in my actual position of right-back. Even in training, I wasn't, which was frustrating.

‘But every time I put the kit on and was playing for Pompey, it didn't matter. I appreciated it every time I played for the club, but maybe I should have been a bit more selfish and spoken up a bit more.

‘I could never have left the club by choice, no matter what. Maybe being let go is a blessing in disguise.

‘Playing for Pompey is something I've always wanted to do. I'm massively proud – both for myself and my family. My brothers go to every away game.

‘I never took anything for granted. I trained every day like it was my last session and always appreciated the chance. It's just sad the way it's ended.

‘I'm not in a rush to decide about my future. I need to be playing every Saturday next season because I've just missed half a season. I've missed playing at 3pm on a Saturday.

‘I'm determined to climb back up the ladder. I want to play as high as I can.

‘I've always dreamed of captaining Pompey, maybe that's not going to happen but I'll continue to work as hard as I can to play as high as I can.’