Pompey’s future is in safe hands, according to Paul Cook after he threw the kids in for the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy defeat at Exeter City.
The Blues boss handed first-team debuts to six players, four of whom were straight out of the Academy, while summer recruits Adam Barton and Kal Naismith also made bows after injuries.
A trio of 17-year-olds – Calvin Davies, Adam May and Brandon Joseph-Buadi – all started the game.
While his charges went down 2-0 to second-half goals from Ryan Harley’s penalty and Alex Nicholls to fall at the first hurdle, Cook maintains it was the right thing to do for the club in terms of their short-term aspirations and their long-term development of the next generation of homegrown players.
Cook said: ‘We’ve got a lot of faith in these young boys and I thought they were a credit to the club.
‘I was delighted with the performance.
‘If you take a couple out, the average age was probably 18.
‘They performed with great credit.
‘It’s always great to make your debut. There were a lot of lads from Portsmouth so it was a great night for them, even though we are disappointed to lose.
‘I think people have seen we have got some really good young players coming through at this club.
‘They need the opportunity to learn in first-team games and will benefit from this experience massively.
‘Great credit to Mark Kelly and everyone at the Academy to see so many young lads on the pitch.
‘It was a good competitive game.’
Cook made no secret of his plans to prioritise the club’s promotion quest from League Two and expects to get hit with a £5,000 fine under the rules of the competition for making 11 changes to his side from the weekend.
But he insisted he had no regrets.
He said: ‘I manage Portsmouth and our prime target is promotion.
‘Whether we get promotion, we finish in the play-offs or whatever, that is the prime target.
‘We haven’t achieved anything as yet.
‘But a few blank midweeks will definitely do us some good in the long run.
‘You can tell by my team selection what I think of the rules.
‘We made a lot of changes in the Capital One Cup and as a club, I think we should be allowed to make whatever changes we choose to make.
‘We haven’t disrespected any competition.
‘We made eight changes in the Capital One Cup, so we should be entitled to play whatever team we want.
‘We’ve got a football club to run and I will do that to the best of my ability.
‘We know what we want to do this season.
‘I think we should be allowed to choose how we run our club and if we have to pay a fine, then we will pay a fine.’