Nick on major Academy boost
Director of Football Nick Hammond has reaffirmed that achieving Category One Academy status is a huge step forward for the club.
Reaching the top category required a huge investment in terms of time, effort and finance, and all of that work has paid off as our club has been confirmed as one of the very best in the land.
Nick said, "An enormous amount of work has gone in from an enormous amount of people, and it's really important that the supporters recognise what a big achievement this is, and what a big statement it is from the club.
"We'll be one of less than 20 Category One clubs in the country, there are all sorts of benefits but also all sorts of costs as well. I'm delighted from the club's perspective, from Anton and the board we've had that sort of support, because it's been a cornerstone of the club.
"It was a big decision to have an Academy many years ago, and people will realise that was a correct decision. The same point remains here, it's a big commitment by the club but it allows us to compete at the highest level in youth football, to attract players and to progress. I'm delighted.
"It's going to be the very elite of football development and there are an enormous amount of criteria to even apply for Category One. There's a large amount of investment behind that, whether it's facilities, staff, and it will continue to grow. Kids will now be on a fuller programme, with much more contact time with players. It's widely recognised and understood that more coaching time gives you a chance of better players. It's about practice, practice, practice. You need a large amount of staff, coaching, medical, sport science, analysis, and facilities of the highest level.
"We also maintain a games programme against the best teams in this country, develop a European programme as well, which will expose our young players to other top teams."
The whole EPPP has been designed to refresh and rejuvinate youth development in England, and Nick is delighted we will be at the forefront of that progression.
Reading's youth Academy has been hugely successful recently, and with proven first team opportunities for our youngsters, we can continue to attract the best talent. "Myself and Eamonn have been forceful and positive about EPPP because it gives us the opportunity to attract the very best talented young players in the country, not just within an hour's driving time.
"And the difference between us and some of the biggest clubs is that the opportunity exists to get into the first team at an early age, when maybe they wouldn't at other clubs. We're well-positioned to attract players locally, nationally and internationally.
"If you're a young player or a parent, you look at the club, facilities, coaching and the fixtures. It's hugely important for us to be playing Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal. And if you provide a path to the first team, it's very important in terms of attracting players. It's difficult for youngsters to make a breakthrough, especially in the Premier League, so you need a pathway."
It has taken many months to achieve Category One status, and Nick was keen to praise the gangantuan effort from our staff. "I can only complement everyone at the club for the work that's gone in, especially those in the Academy of course. The volume of work gone in is quite remarkable. For the club, we bought into youth development many years ago and this continues it now. We've been successful over the years, most recently with Alex in the England squad.
"For us, many players have come through to play their part. There are the names everyone knows, so too Simon Church scored important goals when we went up, Simon Cox we sold to Swindon because we had a bottleneck of strikers, but we realised very good money on him, first from Swindon and then West Brom. A youth development programme needs a return and that was a good return on a player who didn't play many games for us.
"I became involved in the management side of the Academy in 1999/2000, it has always been hugely important, it was bought into by Sir John Madejski at the very start and Anton has embraced it as well.
"Everyone is delighted and it's a massive, massive achievement for the club to go forward."