The aim is to achieve category three status by next seasonFleetwood Town’s brand new Poolfoot Farm training ground and community sport development in Thornton is all set to open its doors.
To coincide with the completion of the state of the art £8 million facility, the Club have announced their intention to further develop their youth academy.
Under the governance of the professional game’s ‘Elite Player Performance Programme’ (EPPP), the Club presently operate a Category 4 academy, providing for elite development for age groups U17 through to U21.
The potential roll out, which is currently under discussion with the Football League, could possibly see the Club move to a Category 3 status as early as next season, which would see elite level coaching operations at Poolfoot Farm from age 8 upwards.
CEO Steve Curwood said: “Our youth development and infrastructure has been growing rapidly year on year and we have been working with younger age groups for two seasons now and have already made successful inroads with these younger age group coaching programmes.
“This work has seen scholarships offered for next season to some of those locally based players already in that coaching system.
“With the outstanding community and Club training facility now almost complete, and with many aspects of what is required to operate a Category 3 academy already in place, for a Club of our size it is the next essential stage of our development if we are to compete at the highest level possible year on year.
“This will not only ensure we are fully protected by our investment in players at all age groups from U9 upwards, but will allow us to develop our own true philosophy, style and strategy in producing our own players from a young age.
“We want to consider a predominantly Fylde Coast focus to the academy, where we feel opportunities for a greater level of development time, commitment and loyalty can be achieved, also allowing improved focus and engagement with grassroots clubs and schools, with whom we are already working or are familiar.
“It may sound a twee notion to create more local professional footballers, but we truly believe this can be achieved with the right focus.
"Poolfoot will be a fantastic hub to bring those players through, with the first team here on site, along with the community users. It is also a place with facilities that academy players’ parents can also enjoy and one where they can relax.
“It is difficult enough for parents with all the homework and the other day to day commitments that boys and families have to contend with, without also having to arrange several trips a week to other parts of the county to football
clubs with whom they have no real knowledge or affinity. We all firmly believe this can be achieved.
“Working with locally based players also allows us to give them other opportunities around the Club, regardless of whether or not they make the progress in to the professional game.
“This may be in community coaching, working at Poolfoot, match day roles, or working in our partnership programmes both locally and overseas.
"We still acknowledge the importance of players from outside the area to provide the balance and other ingredients, and that aspect won’t be neglected, but the heavy focus will be around this area.‘’
FA Coach Educator, Jed Starkey, has recently been brought on board as Head of Coaching, to oversee the transition, and he said: “From the outset I have been inspired by the philosophy and vision of the Club, the fantastic outstanding facilities but more so the passion and belief to drive the Academy plans forward and be the Vanguard for the Northwest.’’
“From what I have witnessed so far the Club’s commitment to local and regional community cohesion is second to none.
"Over the coming months the new Academy will offer opportunities for both players and members of the community both on and off the pitch.’’
Head of the Academy, Stuart Murdoch, said: “The academy has made great strides over the past couple of years, trying to catch up with the massive steps made at first team level.
“Having been involved in the development of academies during my career at Watford, Wimbledon, MK Dons, Bournemouth and Southampton I know the importance of a football club producing its own players.
“This new initiative will allow us to be working with youth players at the same level as clubs in League One and the Championship.”
“Our new facilities will assist us in attracting the best players from the local area and under the requirements of the ‘EPPP’ we will be aiming to provide the best coaching and games programme locally.
“An enormous amount of work needs to be completed before we can achieve category 3 status but with the continued backing of our chairman, as has been seen over the years, this Club has an attitude that anything is possible.
“I am looking forward to the challenge of developing and producing young players, so we have a greater number of local players having the opportunity to play in the Football League.”
Work is also set to commence on a second FIFA standard full size artificial 4G pitch, adding to the one already on site at Poolfoot.