Bright future for club Academy
22nd June 2013
Swansea City's head of youth, Tony Pennock, has already set himself and the club a new target after securing Category Two status with the Premier League.
In a stringent selection process, the club met all the standards with the league's independent inspectors this week after substantial developments on and off the pitch.
The new training ground complex at Landore helped meet the facilities criteria, while Pennock has seen his staff increase from two to 21 over the last few years, with that number set to grow again by the start of the new campaign.
"A lot of hard work has gone in over the last 18 months to make sure we secured Category Two status,'' explained Pennock. "There have been some difficult and nervy days getting here, but we are all delighted to achieve approval.
"It has to be said that it wouldn't have been possible without the financial backing, support and encouragement of the club's Board of Directors. They have made a major investment in both facilities and staff to allow us to move forward.
"While it also means that we will now receive extra funding from the Premier League, the main thing is that our teams, from the under-21s down to the under-9s, will be playing a better standard of football every week.
"We educate the players off the field as well, while match analysis and sports science have also become an important part of the Academy set-up.
"And when our young lads see how the likes Ben Davies, Jazz Richards and Dai Cornell have development through our youth system, there are plenty of role models for them to match.''
But while Pennock takes a week's break to recharge the batteries, he is already planning for the next step in the Academy's development by striving for Category One status.
"The hard work has only just started,'' he added. "We are going to push on again with the aim of achieving Category One status within the next three years.
"The standards are higher at that level, but we have to aim to improve and that's the next step for us. Most Premier League clubs have Category One academies. The first team are competing with those clubs, and we want all our youth sides to be doing the same.
"It's another big step for us, but we are confident we can achieve it. The big thing which has held us back has been facilities, but we are improving in that area now.''
With the £6m complex at Landore complete, work is well underway on the main £6m training ground at Fairwood that will eventually house the first team, Under-21 and Under-18s, with the juniors remaining at Landore.
So what does it all mean?
The Under-21 squad currently feature in Development League Two, coming up against a number of Football League sides that boast high quality Academies.
In what was traditionally reserve team football, you would often see a host of senior players drop down to the second string in order to gain match sharpness or continue their recovery from injury.
The rules now state that each team can name three overage outfield players in their matchday squad, as well as an overage goalkeeper.
As for the Under-16s and Under-18s, they will feature in the southern section of the Development League, playing against the same clubs as the Under-21s.
The fixture list operates on an alternate system whereby if one club is at home in the Under-21 league, the Under-16s and Under-18s will travel away to that respective club.