Academy Manager Gregg Broughton blogs on the 2016-17 seasonIN JUNE we were given the great news that the Academy had retained its Category One status for the next three years.
The audit process that leads to this decision is carried out by an independent company (FootPass), who are also responsible for auditing the Bundesliga, La Liga and the MLS. They spent seven days at Colney during last season inspecting everything from facilities, to coaching and player recruitment.
The feedback on all areas of the Academy was very positive, with the Club being recognised as being best in class for its coaching, playing individuals players up in older age groups, recruitment, loan strategy and the U21 attendances at Carrow Road. There were three areas highlighted by the audit that need to be focused on going forwards: productivity, facilities and sports psychology.
The facilities at Colney have been given a tremendous boost over the past 12 months with the construction of the 3G pitch and the resurfacing of the Arena. James Randall and his team of ground-staff have also worked tirelessly to ensure the grass pitches are of an immaculate standard. The audit highlighted that the next phase of work at Colney is crucial.
We have been given a timescale to complete the building work needed to replace the modular buildings currently housing the Academy offices and changing rooms. This is much needed to keep the Club competitive with others such as Southampton and Brighton who have recently upgraded their facilities.
Sports psychology is the biggest growth area in football, and this is much overdue as football lags behind some of the work happening in rugby, basketball and American football. Over the past 18 months we have been working with the psychology department of the UEA to build our “Elite Mindset” programme and one of the audit’s key findings was that we employed a full-time sports psychologist. We are delighted to welcome Matt Miller to the Club, who starts as our Elite Mindset coach this month. Matt has worked at the highest level in a number of Olympic sports and is also an A Licence coach.
It’s important for us to share with you what our long-term target is for Academy graduates playing in our first-team, irrelevant of what division the Club is in.
By 2022 we aim to have 10% of league minutes played by Academy graduates.
Why 2022? The Academy first achieved Category One Status in 2012, and therefore was able to extend its player recruitment outside of the previous 1.5 hour rule. An Academy cycle takes 10 years, from bringing a player in aged nine to 12, and that player being ready to break into the first team.
Why 10%? In 2014-15, the average minutes played by Academy graduates for a Premier League club was 8%. Two clubs achieved over 20%, but several clubs also had 0% of minutes played. Norwich City had 0.01% of minutes played in 2012-13 (a substitute appearance by Chris Martin), and this number has steadily grown over the past four years. In 2013-14 it was 0.43%, 2014-15 was 0.85% and last season, due to Declan Rudd’s run in the team, saw Academy graduates play 2.6%.
For 2016-17 we are targeting 4% of league minutes to be played by Academy graduates. This is another steady step forward towards our long-term goal of 10%.
When you lay out the cold, hard facts on paper it can take away that this is all about players. With the four graduates from the FA Youth Cup squad now with the first team, you are beginning to see the first benefits of the Category One programme.
Beyond this group of players, as supporters you were able to witness some of the players coming through last season. In our younger age groups, our national recruitment programme has meant that the depth of talent in each squad makes the Academy incomparable to that seen pre-Category One.
Our U16 team retained the Rey Cup in Iceland this summer, and our current U15, U14 & U13 squads have consistently finished in the top-eight in the Premier League’s national tournaments.
Youth development is a long process, but you are beginning to witness the results of the Club’s investment.