Academy Manager Jack Higgins sat down at Poolfoot Farm for the first time since the club progressed to Category 2 status and explained all the benefits of reaching this next step.
With the Academy gaining its Category Three status back in 2016, it has been seven years of hard work from the staff to the players, and today marks a huge moment in the club’s history.
Making over 450 appearances in League One in the past five seasons, our Academy graduates have amassed over 27,000 minutes of first-team football within that period, with no less than 8 players commanding considerable transfer fees to clubs in the Premier League, Championship and Scottish Premier League.
The development of talent has continued further in the past 12 months, with the Academy seeing 17 graduates feature for the first team in the 2022-2023 season - a truly outstanding achievement for such a young academy setup.
Here’s what Jack had to say in his feature interview:
On being proud of everyone in the Academy setup…
“We’re all proud that we’ve managed to progress from Category 3 to Category 2, it feels like it’s been a long time coming in many respects, but this just shows the progress that’s been made at the football club over the last couple of seasons – now we can see the fruits of our labour here in the Academy.
“Despite our young age of only seven years old, I feel like we got to a point in Category 3 where we were able to take the next step forwards, and with the addition of everything that has come with the progression, it’s a great feeling to be a part of. I’m proud to say we’ve moved into a new category together.”
On the amount of game time Academy players have been given…
“We’ve had a lot of players feature for the first team over the last couple of years; to touch on the players that have moved on first, we’ve made around £4 million in terms of transfer income for the football club. To have Academy players come through the setup, make a difference in the first team, and then get sold on is what keeps the club moving.
“As a League One football club, like ourselves, this helps us tick over and make the step up to Category 2. We’ve had support from the top, the key stakeholders, and the board, to the footballing staff on the ground who want to ensure the Academy plays its part in the growth of the football club.
“We haven’t just had some debut and a couple of minutes; we’re having boys come in and make an impact in League One regularly. We’ve had more than 27,000 minutes played in the league over the last three years, which is a lot considering the lads are between the ages of 16 to 19 years old – that’s a credit to everyone involved.”
On the business side of making the next step…
“The move to Category 2 gives us a better foothold in the area, especially when you look at it from a business point of view. You can look around now and see the enhanced facilities, we’ve managed to recruit the best staff and players, and will also receive some additional funding which allows us to build a wider pool of support for the players we have.
“With the staffing level that we are at, we’ve tried to slowly progress towards what we’ve needed for the Category 2 status over the last couple of years, which has been well documented, so the additional funding will help us cement those roles and provide a wider support network for our players from the Under-9s up to our Under-21s age group.”