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ACADEMY IN THE SPOTLIGHT – PART 1

30 May 2013

Town’s youth development operation explained

After the three part insight into recruitment at Huddersfield Town, htafc.com is now following up with a series on the Academy, which has seen a complete overhaul over the last year with huge changes in every aspect of its operations.
 
The full introduction of the new Premier League ‘Elite Player Performance Plan’ in the summer of 2012 brought the biggest changes to Youth Football Development since the introduction of the Academy system in 1998.
 
The EPPP focuses on 11 key areas which impact on player development, namely:
-          Vision and Strategy 
-          Leadership and Management 
-          Coaching 
-          Education and Welfare 
-          Games Programme 
-          Sports Science and Medicine 
-          Player Development and Progression 
-          Talent Identification, Recruitment and Registration 
-          Facilities 
-          Financial Sustainability 
-          Productivity 
 
The first two areas – ‘Vision and Strategy’ and ‘Leadership and Management’ – set the agenda for how football is approached throughout the whole Club and how systems and plans flow through to all age of player from Under-8 to Under-21 and then into First Team. Central to this are the Leadership of Chairman Dean Hoyle and the Board of Directors at the high level, and the day-to-day football management, led by the Manager Mark Robins and Academy Manager Mark Lillis.
 
The Club’s vision and strategy and long term plan is well established within the operation of the Club. It incorporates an overall long term vision, strategic objectives and areas of focus, which are all underpinned by our ten core values.
 
Chief Executive Nigel Clibbens explained:
 
“As a Club we are working together to be a successful, sustainable and financially viable football club that we can all take pride in. 
 
“We operate by focusing our efforts on those five objectives as we operate the Academy, Business, Community, Football and Club. All the areas are intrinsically linked and need to work together in a joined-up fashion as ‘One Club’ - they all need and rely on each other and cannot succeed alone – but of course our top priority is always First Team football.
 
“Our approach puts the Academy at the heart of what we are about as a Club. It’s our statement of intent.
 
“All of this is underpinned by our 10 core values; Honesty, Integrity, Trust, Character, Commitment, Quality, Value, Success, Pride and Respect. Putting it all together and simplifying things, this gives the Club and everyone in it a sense of what we want to achieve, how to get there and how all the parts fit together.  
 
“In practise, we have been striving to unite the Academy and First Team football operations together - not just physically on the same site, but also in terms of a joined up approach to football – in what we want our players and teams to be like. Over the last 18 months the development of the facilities at Canalside means that the First Team, Under-21s and Academy train and operate from the same site.
 
“We aspire to move the Club forward and develop, which means improving all aspects on and off the field. On the pitch, we want to recruit the best players we can from Under-8 to professional level and in all aspects we want to employ the best staff we can, but within a sustainable and affordable financial model.
 
“The Club needs solid foundations to be financially sustainable, which means we have to develop the Club’s own resources rather than chasing quick fixes – which includes nurturing Academy players to play for our First Team.
  
“Our Academy is critical to us. Our supporters take pride in seeing home-grown players in our First Team, whereas home-grown players represent better business sense than buying all the time – but we have to produce players that are good enough.
 
“Establishing our own football philosophy is fundamental. This must run through every age group and all operations – coaching, sports science, recruitment and analytics - in order for us to achieve what we want.
 
“More people within football are now actively and openly discussing the concept of football philosophies from Academy to First Team. 
 
“It is evidence that times are changing in football. Clubs now realise that they cannot spend endless amounts of money in the climate of Financial Fair Play, chasing success and quick fixes. Outside the biggest clubs, for example, successful clubs such as Swansea City, West Bromwich Albion, Crewe Alexandra and Crystal Palace have led the way, progressing with a strong identifiable philosophy as part of their DNA – not necessarily founded on having the biggest cheque book. 
 
“At Huddersfield Town we have started this journey and are making progress.”

In the next instalment, Huddersfield Town Manager Mark Robins and Academy Manager Mark Lillis explained what the Club’s overall approach to football means day to day for the Academy and First Team.

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