As the Club’s Academy Director I am responsible for managing the Academy programme up to U21 level, which covers all areas from player acquisition and contracts, staff engagement and deployment, through to budget management of the Academy and being the lead person for the Club reporting through to the Premier League.
Achieving Category 1 Status:
For us a huge amount of work went into gaining Category One status which is the new structure for Academies in professional football. There are four categories with one being the highest and we were very pleased to get category 1 status. We will now participate in a national games programme for the first time ever for the 16, 18 and under 21 age groups. It gives us the opportunity to have more resources and the chance to participate in a more extended programme.
There’s been an amazing commitment from the Club to promote the Academy. We’re indebted to the support of the Chairman for really promoting the work we’re doing. It’s a real challenge to bring players through the system. Nationally that is what everyone is being encouraged to do and we want to be at the forefront of that.
We’ve got a fantastic group of staff who have a tremendous work ethic. They’re top people on and off the pitch so to speak and there is a very good spirit amongst us.
We’ve recently brought in Steve Wigley and to attract someone of his calibre speaks volumes for the commitment the Club is showing towards the Academy and the programmes that someone like Steve wants to come and join us.
It's always special to see a player who has joined the Academy go on to play for the First Team. During my time at the Club Matthew Briggs, Kerim Frei, Alex Kacaniklic and Marcello Trotta have broken through.
We’ve also done well with individual teams. The U18s were national champions last year and runners up the year before. We’re setting a high class standard on a consistent basis. We’re also very pleased with the other age groups who have enjoyed notable international highlights.
We certainly want to increase the number of players that go through to Martin Jol’s group, whether that is temporary or permanent. We’re hopeful there maybe a few other players that will break through and we want to demonstrate that getting a Category One is a start point for us and not a finish. We need to strengthen our groups and strengthen our programme.