Academy Manager Jack Higgins spoke to the club over the weekend and reflected on his first year at the club and how he feels he can make further advancements to the Academy in the future.
Higgins joined the side from the Fylde Coast from Premier League side Burnley, where he worked as Head of Education for three years and was tasked with taking the Academy to the next level by managing the transition to Category 2 status. Here is how the conversation went on Sunday.
Upon starting the chat, Jack began with: “It’s great for us to sit down and reflect on what has been an incredible 12 months for the Academy, in what we have achieved and how we continue to progress, despite issues faced with the Covid pandemic.”
The conversation then moved on to one of the biggest stories of the year in terms of the sale of Josh Feeney to Premier League side Aston Villa during the summer period. He said on the topic: “The progression and sale of Josh Feeney is the biggest achievement. It’s possibly been overlooked that not only was he called up to the England U16s squad, but he was also selected as captain.
“For a League One Academy that’s a truly remarkable achievement, and we are proud to see him move onto Aston Villa and progress his career further. The significance in taking Josh Feeney from an Under-12s grassroots player at BJFF, to an England Under-16s captain and watching him move to a Premier League club, highlights the environment and standard of coaching we have here at Fleetwood Town, and that will only improve too.”
Progression is a big factor in how our Academy works and Jack believes that the way the group of staff and players are going at the moment is only positive for the club, with multiple players advancing to the Under-23s and first-team after being offered professional contracts earlier this year.
“The Under-18s squad won the Youth Alliance league for the first-time last season and had another positive FA Youth Cup run, with 50% of those players (6 in total) gaining professional contracts with the Club. Of course, there has been challenges along the way, but every credit has to go to our staff, players and parents for their flexibility and ability to quickly adapt to new situations.
“We’ve also had a number of youth internationals called up for the Northern Ireland squad. To have five Under-21 internationals shows the level of ability we have within our growing Under-23s squad.
“It’s easy to forget we are entering only our 7th season as an Academy but in that time, we have produced players such as Billy Crellin, Ged Garner, James Hill, Harrison Holgate, Jay Matete, Shayden Morris and Barry Baggley, who have all featured numerous times for our first team in the Football League - it’s incredible really.”
The most notable challenge has been the indoor training facility and the impact Covid has had on the planning and construction in order to achieve Category 2 status.
“The aim is to achieve Category 2 status and ultimately that wasn’t to be this past season, but we’ve taken real confidence in the fact that the Chairman and CEO have continued to support the growth of the Academy and have confidently submitted the application for Category 2 in time for the 2022/23 season,” Jack added.
“We are ready to move into Category 2. We all feel it and can see it reflects in our work. We think and work differently to other Academies and take real pride in that - we are ready for the next step to support the continued progression of our Academy players.”
As a final statement from the Academy Manager, he left off the chat with this: “We have an incredible group of age group coaches, many of whom have recently been appointed into full-time roles with the Club, which will only support the development of our own players even further.”