Portsmouth have handed six of their Apprentice players professional contracts for next season.
The club might still be beset by financial problems, be no nearer to finding a new owner and be starting next season in a division lower than the one just gone but Academy Manager Andy Awford believes Fratton Park is a great place to be if you’re a young player.
With Pompey’s desire to build the future on home-grown talent and make the club self sufficient the likes of Ashley Harris and Dan Butler have been handed contracts.
Sam Magri, Alex Grant, George Colson and Elliot Wheeler have also been signed up.
They are six players who will provide the bedrock of the newly formed development squad next term, as well as pushing for first-team recognition.
The fact Pompey are putting so much faith in youth also represents a major pull in the pursuit of attracting more young talent to the club.
For Awford, it is compelling evidence that talented individuals have a genuine route into the Pompey first-team – an encouraging sign for any aspiring footballer.
“There is no better place than here if you are good enough and I really believe that,” Awford told the News.
“You look at the lads coming through at the moment and it shows that if you show a little bit of potential you will get your chance here.”
“With the development squad as well, it is really encouraging for youngsters.”
“They can see there are opportunities at this football club for young players. Players will look at Pompey and believe they will get a chance.”
“We have a decent crop of youngsters here who are continuing to develop and next season will maintain pushing towards the first team.”
“The gaffer is also big on youth so he will encourage that. We’d be the first to admit that a lot of the lads’ promotion into the first-team squad last season was out of necessity but that happens elsewhere as well.”
“I recently spoke to Dougie Freedman at Crystal Palace over their youth set-up and the fact so many have made the first team recently and he said they were in trouble numbers-wise so had to do it.”
“There is not anything different here, but you have got to give kids a chance and that is what we are doing.”
“If they are good enough to stay in the team, they will do. That is down to them.”