‘Forget the academies of Southampton, Bournemouth and Brighton. My focus is on Portsmouth – and we’re making progress’: New Blues youth coach Zesh Rehman

The former Fulham and Bradford defender took over from Liam Daish as head coach of Pompey Academy’s professional development stage in June.

He leads a new setup which includes former Aston Villa and Derby youth coach Sam Hudson as an assistant, while James Barlow was appointed head of coaching in February.

Nonetheless, Rehman was encouraged by early progress – and definite improvements are already visible.

He said The news: ‘To be honest, I don’t know too much about the inner workings of the other academies.

“I just have tunnel vision of what’s going on here, trying to get our own house in order and make it the best we can before comparing.

“I talk to the players about you versus yourself, don’t look sideways to compare. It’s my point of view.

Academy youngster Adam Payce received his second first-team outing in last month’s Papa John Trophy match at Crawley. Photo: Jason Brown/ProSportsImages

“I think about our Academy compared to what it was like a month ago, six weeks ago, a year ago, that’s my conversation with the guys.

“Are we better now than where we were in pre-season?” I would say yes. So at the end of the season, can we be better than we were in December?

“We now have clear processes for players, we have raised standards on and off the pitch, there are good expectations, there is alignment between the roles and responsibilities of analysts and psychologists.

“There’s the first-team connection in terms of who Danny and Nicky need us, so we’ll talk the day before, in terms of planning, it’s who you need and when you need them.”

“So are we better than we were in week one? 100 per cent. And there are more and more, but I don’t want to bore you with that.

“It doesn’t feel like a Category 3 academy. In terms of preparation, video analysis and the level of detail we go into, it’s better than that, it’s bigger than that.

Still a few months into his job, Rehman continues to assess the talent the Academy has at his disposal.

Adam Payce appeared as a second-half substitute in last month’s Papa John Trophy tie at Crawley.

While Josh Dockerill, Harvey Laidlaw and Malachi Osei-Owusu have been named among themselves in the Carabao Cup and Papa John’s Trophy this season.

He added: “It’s still early, I’m still getting to know the identity of the players, their strengths, their weaknesses, how they are in different games, different times, different situations.

“The thing is, Adam Payce has already played for the first team this season. They’re guys that Danny and Nicky have looked up to and want to get involved with.

“There will be late developers, people in this group who may be struggling a bit now but thriving in six months, so it’s very hard to say how good they are.”

“It’s our job to improve them and take them to the next level, whatever it is for them.”

A message from the editor, Mark Waldron

We’ll be up to date with all the latest Pompey news, match coverage, off-the-pitch features and analysis from Fratton Park throughout the year.

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