Venues fall foul as Academy training ground hunt goes on

Waterlogged pitches at Farlington playing fields on Sunday. Picture: Kevin Shipp
Waterlogged pitches at Farlington playing fields on Sunday. Picture: Kevin Shipp
21
Have your say

It’s a training ground hunt which has already taken Pompey Academy chiefs to every parks pitch in the city.

What’s more, Paul Hardyman believes the vast majority of them are unable to fulfil crucial Football League criteria.

While Guy Whittingham is searching for a first-team venue, Hardyman is doing likewise for the youth.

In theory, the Academy do not have to occupy the same training base as the senior players.

West Ham are just one example of a club opting to train in different locations. There are others, too.

From Eastney Barracks and Farlington to St John’s and King George’s, all have been assessed.

For Hardyman, though, barely any can be considered.

He said: ‘For Sunday League football the pitches and facilities are great but for the Academy there is so much criteria which needs to be met.

‘There have to be separate toilets for parents, a room where parents can get a cup of tea, the changing rooms have to be of a certain standard and pitches have to be roped off. There is a lot to it.

‘I know of one club going for Category 1 that, when being audited, it was discovered there were only 10 hooks in the changing rooms, yet there were meant to be 16 players in the team.

‘Beggars can’t be choosers at the moment for us but we can’t look at places which just won’t meet the criteria.

‘Take Farlington, which has had a lot of work done on their pitches in the past, the drainage is better and doesn’t flood as much as it used to.

‘However, it’s having that separate area where it’s on its own and the security is there with pitches roped off.

‘King George V playing fields are similar. They are open to the public and anyone could walk in.

‘We very much have to abide by the correct child protection protocol.

‘With Bransbury Park you would struggle with the changing rooms not being right.

‘The Rugby Camp and Roko was a site the club did look at at one stage.

‘The pitches at both are probably not good enough but anywhere in Portsmouth you would have to upgrade them to the level required.

‘St John’s College have been fantastic in the past to us and a venue which does fit the criteria because the pitches are of a good standard.

‘They have helped us out with both training and matches and we thank Graham Best for that.

‘When I played we used to train at Eastney quite a lot.

‘They have always been of a decent standard but there are a lot of buildings.

‘Then there’s HMS Collingwood, where we trained when Paul Hart was with the kids.

‘The main pitch was a decent standard but the others needed work.

‘The facilities are good, though.

‘We have looked at them all but we cannot just rock up and put a set of goalposts down.’