Acting Academy Manager on retaining elite statusReading were able to announce with delight that the Academy had retained its EPPP Category 1 status last week, meaning that our club can continue to proudly claim to be amongst the best places in the country for your players to learn their trade.
Lee Herron, Acting Academy Manager, explained the significance for the club of making the grade once again.
“We’re all delighted to maintain Cat 1 status – it is a huge achievement for the club to get it second-time round,” said Lee. “Three years ago we achieved it for the first time under the new EPPP rules which came out.
“To get Cat 1 status first time round was highly difficult, so it’s magnificent that we have been able to maintain that and that we can push forward now.
“Our Academy is in the elite of this country. When the new criteria came out four years ago, to be a Category 1 club would put you in the top tier of youth football. So for us to maintain it again is another progression on from there – with elite sport, year-on-year and week-on-week, the boundaries are being pushed. It becomes harder to stay with that pack.
“But we’ve done that and we’ve excelled with that. So it becomes an opportunity for us to continue the great work that has been done over a number of years with the club’s Academy and move that forward significantly.”
Category 1 brings prestige – but also a lot more.
Matched funding and a games programme against the toughest opposition are just two of the added bonuses that come with attaining their status.
“One of the great things about being a Category 1 club is the games programme,” Herron continued. “That allows us to play against Man United, Man City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool, Everton… all established clubs which are renowned across the world, let alone in England. We’re in with the big boys – but we certainly hold our own within that.
“The last three years has seen us progress on in lots of different ways. It has seen us compete with these clubs week-in, week-out. That can only make us better as staff and only make players better in their development too. You’re in the elite of the elite in this country, if not Europe and the world.
“Being Cat 1 also means an element of funding towards the club’s budget. The games programme is crucial, and then there is development of staff too. There are lots of CPDs and workshops with the other Category 1 clubs who come together to work together in order to improve the standard of football in England, on and off the pitch. There is a fraternity of coaches working together to improve the game across the board.
“There are numerous elements of reward for being Cat 1. It is also important for our image too. There are lots of rewards for it. But of course the games programme is key because you’re in tournaments and playing every week against all the big players in the country.”
The good news about Category 1 status last week was followed in quick succession with some extremely sad news, that our Academy manager Eamonn Dolan passed away at the age of 48.
Lee paid further tribute to the legacy that his friend Eamonn had left for the football club.
“We’re a team – I have been lucky enough to work alongside Eamonn Dolan, and there’s no-one better than him,” Lee continued. “I’ve had the privilege to work alongside him and learn a lot from him, so that enables me to sit here today and speak on his behalf.
“For him, it’s all about the team – not the team on the field, but the whole team. Players, backroom staff, the drivers who drive the players around, the education staff, the chefs, the kit-men… we’re all in it together and we have that team ethos which can take us anywhere. And it has taken us to some great places.
“The commitment and desire from the staff here is phenomenal, and I’m very humbled to work with them. They inspire me every day to improve because they make me that way, because they want to get better and they want our young players to get better.
“Without the quality and the team that Eamonn has put together, we probably wouldn’t be lucky enough to have the Academy we have. The Academy continues to grow under that philosophy and with those values.”