'Thinking outside the box': Why Portsmouth are targeting Belgium and other countries for playing talent after Australian capture

Rich Hughes has vowed to continue ‘thinking outside the box’ as Pompey plot raiding other leagues across the world in their exhaustive search for playing talent.
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The Blues recently signed striker Kusini Yengi from A-League side Western Sydney Wanderers.

The Australian under-23 international represents a fresh approach to recruitment since Hughes arrived at Fratton Park as sporting director in October.

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Existing head of recruitment Phil Boardman has also been pivotal as the Blues focus on 4-5 leagues outside of the UK and Ireland they believe are brimming with talent.

Among them are Belgium and, of course Australia, with hopes high Yengi can prove a huge hit following his arrival in England.

He told The News: ‘We want to try to get everything right for this football club and sometimes there are opportunities worth exploring to ensure you’re giving yourself the best chance of being successful.

‘Sometimes you have to think outside the box, trying to be creative with recruitment – and that was Australia.

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‘As a recruitment department and wider coaching staff, we began by identifying leagues heavily prevalent with British passport players. One of the leagues flagged up quite heavily was the A-League.

Pompey are scouring '4-5 leagues' abroad in pursuit of footballing talent following the capture of Kusini Yengi. Picture: Jason Brown/ProSportsImagesPompey are scouring '4-5 leagues' abroad in pursuit of footballing talent following the capture of Kusini Yengi. Picture: Jason Brown/ProSportsImages
Pompey are scouring '4-5 leagues' abroad in pursuit of footballing talent following the capture of Kusini Yengi. Picture: Jason Brown/ProSportsImages

‘Albeit a relatively small league, there’s probably 12-13 players with British passports, so we spent a lot of time analysing the data and footage to get that into a shortlist.

‘Credit to Phil Boardman, he has done a lot of really good work on the A-League, bringing together a really good list of players for us to further review and make some good decisions on.

‘Not only that , but there are other markets and other avenues we can look at for recruiting players into the football club. There are a lot of ex-pats playing in Belgium now, so that’s another league.

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‘We need to figure out the most effective markets because we can’t cover everything. We must cover some of them well, as opposed to covering everything really badly.

‘So, outside the UK, including Scotland and Ireland, we’ll focus on 4-5 leagues and try to really nail that down from a data and video perspective.

‘Hopefully that will provide some players for us and help Pompey to get better.’

Yengi holds a UK passport through his mum, who was born in Chelmsford, Essex, and later emigrated to Adelaide with her parents.

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Now the 24-year-old has ventured to England, with younger brother Tete already over here on Ipswich’s books, last term winning promotion from League Two while on loan at Northampton.

Hughes added: ‘A lot of what we saw with Kusini was really exciting, in terms of high athletic profile and high-end goal-scoring ability.

‘Probably most exciting of all is there’s a hell of a lot to work on and develop, which is a real project for the coaching staff to get their teeth into.

‘He’s a very intelligent young man and highly driven, which fits what we are trying to do as a wider club.

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‘Kusini has an exciting profile, we did the background checks on people that have coached and worked with him, and it all came back really positive on his character and personality.

‘We believe he’s the type of player to hopefully succeed and thrive in England.’