Wolves are delighted to announce that the club’s Academy has achieved Category One status – the highest rating possible – as part of the Premier League’s Elite Player Performance Plan.
And the fact that Wolves have landed the Category One license for the maximum initial three year period puts the Academy on a level footing with the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea.
The Premier League are carrying out a stringent auditing process of Academies in the re-categorisation process, examining every detail of club’s youth operations both on and off the pitch.
With the official announcement today of results from the first batch of Academies which have been scrutinised, Wolves have achieved the top rating and will not be re-categorised for at least three years.
Landing Category One status brings with it a host of different benefits, not only sending out a message to players and parents of the level of provision Wolves Academy offers, but also a high quality list of fixtures against similarly rated opposition and the opportunity to scout players from further afield.
“It has been long and hard process but it has certainly been worth it,” said Academy manager Kevin Thelwell.
“It is a very stringent audit process but we have gained real value from doing it and it has helped us add to and improve our programme.
“We went through our formal audit in May and have now received our audit report to say we have achieved the appropriate standard to become a Category One club.
“It is fantastic news.
“The most pleasing thing about the report is that it was extremely supportive of the programme we have in place and the fact that we will not be revisited for three years - which is the maximum timespan allowed - is an indicator of the confidence the Auditors have in us.
“There are some clubs who have achieved Category 1 status who will be reviewed again after a year to make sure the systems are where they should be.
“For us to get three years is terrific and allows us to settle down, work with the process we have got in place and hopefully see the programme continue to grow and develop.”
In practical terms then, what does Category One status mean?
“It helps us massively,” Thelwell explains.
“First and foremost it is a statement to players and parents alike that our programme is one of the strongest in the country.
“In the old Academy system we were among the top 40 whereas now we’ll be one of the top 20 clubs in the country.
“Category One says that the provision that players receive is absolutely first class.
“It also means a much stronger games programme against teams who have also got Category One such as Manchester City, Chelsea and Fulham.
“There are some really big teams there, and a different category would have meant our lads playing against opposition with less strong squads.
“And for our boys to come up against this sort of standard week-in week-out can only improve their quality.
“In the recruitment process it also allows us to recruit from further afield.
“We will still be focusing a huge amount of our energies on the local area which has served us very well.
“But the potential to recruit from a national perspective provides us with additional opportunities to recruit the very best players going forwards.”
Beyond everything of course the fact that Wolves have achieved Category One status means that the facilities and working practices followed by the Academy are of the highest possible standard.
And it comes at a time when the £6million redevelopment programme for the Academy is underway at Compton, today’s announcement co-inciding with the official opening of the new state-of-the-art
3G pitch which is primarily to be used by the club’s younger players.
“Because you are a Category One club the regulations to reach that status are very strong,” adds Thelwell.
“The facilities are required to be outstanding and additional staff are needed to provide extra support to the players which is very important going forwards.
“The club’s Board have been vitally supportive and have demonstrated their commitment to youth development at our Football Club by investing in the EPPP process through the appointment of those additional staff and provisions as part of the required new standards.
“There are 11 key performance indicators which cover all of the operations.
“So the auditors are not just looking at the football - they are looking at sports science, coaching, recruitment, budget management, leadership and management, vision and strategy etc.
“All of the elements in the Academy are covered and the evaluation of all these areas make up your final score - if you were weak in any one area that would show in the final percentages.
“The whole staff are delighted that the hard work had paid off and we have proved what we thought – that we are a very strong Academy going in the right direction.
“I think we can also see that the process we have in place here is very strong from the players coming through to the first team last season.
“We’ve got a new manager on board with a European background who I am sure will have an open view on how we should play the game.
“We’ve also got some terrific facilities coming on line in due course which will make a massive difference to the programme.
“We’ve gained Category One status and have got a very strong games programme to go with that.
“To put the icing on the cake we are starting to see the fruits of our work with players coming through to the first team such as Anthony Forde, David Davis and Danny Batth coming back this year.
“There has never been a more exciting time to be a young player at Wolves.”
*Wolves would like to thank the ongoing partners involved in the Compton Park development including St Edmund's School, St Peter's School, Wolverhampton City Council, Wolverhampton University, Councillors Mike Hardacre and Claire Darke, Redrow Homes and the McArdle Group.
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