BURTON Albion’s academy has been awarded Category Three status after an audit was completed last month.
The club and the academy have been working towards this stage for the past 18 months and have been working continuously on 10 key areas to meet the requirements of the FA and Football League.
Academy manager Mike Whitlow said: “It is a massive achievement for the football club to show how far we have come in such a short space of time as an academy.
“We have been making great strides, not just with the youngsters but with promoting young players and hopefully in the future we will be able to bring through a few like Matty Palmer, who has progressed to starting in the first-team at the age of 18.
“Liam Slade has also broken into the first-team squad and made his debut this season.
“The purpose of the audit is to see where we are and it has been really pleasing to get the club and the academy to where we are at the moment.
“It is a great credit to everyone involved, from the board of directors to the first-team manager and to all our staff, it really is a great achievement.”
The areas of improvement include the overall vision of the academy and the club as a whole, as well as expansion in leadership, management and coaching.
Other areas of development include sport science and medicine, player development, talent identification and recruitment, as well enhancements in facilities and working within a financially sustainable environment.
One change will see all academy coaches hold at least a UEFA B licence or better, whether they are a full-time or part-time coach.
Chairman Ben Robinson said: “We’re delighted to have been awarded the Category Three status under the stewardship of Mike Whitlow.
“Mike and his team of coaches have worked hard to achieve this new category which is a credit to them as a number of clubs in our division were only awarded the Category Four status.
“Our academy has proudly produced a number of players over the last couple of season, with Matty Palmer, Liam Slade and Marcus Harness making their first-team debuts.
“We’ve also seen some players progress and move on to play for Wolves and Blackburn.
“The academy now has over 160 players playing in ages that range from six to 18.
“That is fantastic for the long-term development of our football club.”