Academy move could bring rich rewards as Valiants look to future
Y OUTH boss Mick Ede is ready to scale up Port Vale's production line of talent if his thriving junior section can win coveted Academy status.
Ede reckons a favourable decision by the Football League next month could have massive implications for the club as a whole.
The 41-year-old says it's crucial that Vale join the new nationwide scheme which encourages clubs to create academies as part of the Elite Player Performance Plan – a long-term strategy designed to advance youth development.
There will be a four-tier academy system under the EPPP, with clubs at each level having to comply with set standards.
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"This could mean a major change for us," said Ede.
"We are applying for category three status, which would be huge for the club."
Success could mean more money to help develop young talent, build new facilities and increase staffing.
Each category three club is projected to receive a minimum £210,000 in funding and the significance of the decision has not been lost on Ede, who has been planning the application for some time.
"This could be very positive for the future, not only of the junior section but for the club as a whole – it's as big as that," he said.
"We have been moving towards it for two years and, hopefully, we'll be rewarded."
Ede said an unofficial preliminary assessment by the Football League's inspection team had gone well, but he's not counting any chickens. The final decision will be made some time in July.
"We have decent facilities already for our centre of excellence, but if we become a category three academy, we'll be able to do a lot more," added Ede.
"If we are successful, the Football League would provide match funding. So basically that would double the amount of money we put into it.
"The academy system promotes a more thorough approach to development too, from under-eights to scholarship level.
"There would be proper planning for each player and for each stage of their progress, and a performance clock, which enables you to monitor them accurately."
Ede said all 92 English clubs have either joined the scheme, are working towards it or have been in it and subsequently fallen out.
"It's not easy to get into this and then stay there," he added, "and perhaps that's how it should be.
"There are something like 176 criteria to meet, and each one of those has 14 or 15 points within it. So it's a very complicated and in-depth process and it's on-going.
"If we are granted this status, the work will not be allowed to stop. It will be an ongoing procedure to maintain and improve every aspect of our academy.
"We will develop facilities and improve staffing as much as we can and, hopefully, we will see the fruits of our labour when more young players make it all the way into the first team.
"The scheme sets a template for the development of young talent.
"Sessions are planned and prepared down to guidelines, and all of the coaching tools are there to help clubs to bring more young players through. It would be fantastic."
Ede says the academy scheme also specifies levels of compensation that are due if one of his youngsters was to move to another club.
"Having set rules for that sort of thing is a great idea," he said. "It means that if a club with a category one or category two academy comes in for one of the lads, then the amount they pay will be already laid out, depending on who wants to buy, how long the lad has been with us, and a few other factors.
"It will simplify a process which goes on all the time. It will be much more transparent and a lot easier for everyone involved."
The bottom line, of course, is the development of youngsters for the first team and Ede has been delighted by the recent record of the junior section.
Defender Joe Davis made the step up from youth football to first team last season and has since agreed a two-year pro deal with the club, while fellow graduates Ryan Lloyd and Sam Johnson have also agreed contracts.
"To see young lads who were in our centre of excellence develop into first-team players is hugely satisfying," he said.
"It proves we are doing something right and, hopefully, if and when we are granted academy status, we can produce a lot more."
"I am desperate for these lads to fulfil their potential. It is not only my job but my passion. And anything gives us a chance of helping more lads to make similar progress is a great thing."