Moving forward under the EPPPAFC Wimbledon’s application to the Football League for Category Three Academy status under the EPPP has been approved for season 2012/13.
This offers us a platform to further develop our youth development programme with the aim of ensuring a bright future of bringing players through into the first-team squad.
The EPPP (Elite Player Performance Programme) system for youth development, which replaces Premier League Academies and Football League Centres of Excellence, has resulted in big changes for clubs across the country.
All Football League and Premier League clubs have been assessed under the EPPP system and been placed in categories from one to four. Category one is the highest level and includes residential schools, high levels of player contact time and unrestricted recruitment, while clubs meeting category four only need to run an U18 set-up. One key difference from the old academy system is the amount of funding the club provides. For a Football League club under the current system this was a fairly nominal amount, but under EPPP this increases significantly with category one clubs expected to put in at least £1 million each season.
We at AFC Wimbledon believe that category three level is appropriate for the size of our club and the current stage of our development, and in time we hope to move up to the next level if funds allow us to.
As already stated, we created a development squad structure last season and have retained a promising crop of youngsters to form the basis of this season’s squad. It is hoped that the EPPP will introduce an U21 league in the near future as part of its plans and this will allow AFC Wimbledon to keep more young players who are not quite ready for the first-team.
AFC Wimbledon Head of Youth, Mark Robinson, said: “My argument is that though there are still players who come through the academy system and get professional contracts, some youngsters are not quite ready for the step-up when they are 18. But just because they are not ready then, it does not mean they will not be good enough two years later. We want to be ready if the EPPP brings in an U21 league and I am confident that we will have the players coming through who could be ideal for that. It will help to bridge the gap between the academy and the first-team.
“It is good for us as a club to gain Category Three Academy status. It does not mean we will get loads of talented nine-year-olds queuing up to join us as we are competing against Category One clubs. However, it does mean our coaching curriculum will be even better than now and it will put us in a better position to develop players who are attracted by our professionalism, our track record and the ethos of the club."