Portsmouth’s Under-18 coach Mikey Harris has praised the introduction of the newly-formed Merit League 1 division.
Harris’ side finished in fourth place in the Youth Alliance League (South West) and will now compete in a 12-strong division alongside the best teams from the South East competition.
Bournemouth, Plymouth, Swindon and Exeter have also made the cut and they will join the likes of Barnet, MK Dons, Peterborough, Luton, Southend, Watford and Stevenage in the newly formed division.
Speaking to The News, Harris explained: “The league has split into two so the top half of our division now plays the top half of the south-east division”
“We start again on Saturday in a new league with zero on the points board. This is the first time this has happened but I’m glad it has.”
“It’s a good thing for the boys to have made the top league.”
Harris admitted that making the top division had not been the be all end all at the start of the campaign. Pompey have instead elected to include Under-16’s at times to try and stretch their young players and determine suitability for an apprenticeship in the summer.
“As I have said all along I wasn’t really concerned where we finished,” Harris continued.
“But obviously with regards to stretching the boys in the academy, we want to be in the top league playing against the top academies from the area.”
“That was something that we were hopeful we would be able to put ourselves in a position to achieve.”
“We would have never put the opportunity and the experiences that we want to give the boys down the pecking order of trying to finish in the Merit League. It’s a nice by-product of how well the boys have done this season, though.”
“There will be some strong teams from the south-east that we will get to play, which again is a different experience for the boys but one which will be really good.”