Colchester United chairman Robbie Cowling issued the following statement in the programme for the Port Vale game, updating the U's fans on the latest with the club's future plans for the Academy.
Here it is, repeated in full:-
Welcome back to the Weston Homes Community Stadium and thanks once again for your continued support.
I feel very optimistic about the season and I hope we can reward you all with a battle where we are looking up rather than down, but the league is the strongest I have known it to be and there will not be any easy games.
Last year’s relegation battle seemed to galvanise our club and Joe and Mark’s tremendous hard work in the summer has resulted in a number of exciting signings.
I would like to extend my welcome to Micky Adams, who was with us for a brief spell as assistant manager in the Championship, and to congratulate him on his promotion from League Two.
You should all be aware by now that we are investing heavily in our youth academy and those of you that went to Gillingham last week couldn’t fail to be impressed with Alex Gilbey and Drey Wright, who both played a big part in Andy Bond’s winning goal.
I think we’ll be seeing a lot more of these two this season and anyone who follows our academy games will know that we have a number of other prospects to look forward to making a similar impact in the not too far distant future.
We have a tremendous academy and it is already producing the goods. However, I am disappointed to report that we were not successful at our first attempt to gain Category 2 status.
At a recent audit we were required to gain a score of 65% to be awarded Cat 2 and sadly we fell just 3% short of this grade. The EPPP process is new to all of us, and even our advisors at the Football League could not provide us with the guidance we needed to achieve the grade this time.
The area that we scored lowest in was productivity, which is the section with the second highest number of points available and is based on the 12 years from 1999 to 2011. We only scored 98 out of the possible 750 points available in this section and the productivity score is only recalculated every three years.
Therefore, to achieve Cat 2 we would need to achieve Cat 1 equivalent grading in all of the other sections to overcome our sins of the past.
It does seem harsh to be judged so heavily on the past and there is nothing we can do to improve on our score in that section if we go for a re-audit this season, which we are currently considering.
The club were completely in the dark for its first audit and at least we are now working with a system we understand. We know we need to gain an additional 150 points to get to the 65% required and the audit also identified a couple of other areas where the club can gain extra points.
Facilities are still an issue for the club, and local MP Priti Patel’s constant crusade against Colchester United’s training ground has not helped matters.
We are in the crazy situation whereby the club are trying to build facilities that have enormous community benefits too and yet Priti has decided to put the benefits of many in jeopardy for the wishes of a few.
I don’t expect the club to be granted permission for anything it does not deserve but I don’t expect matters to be deliberately made more difficult for us either.
Qualifications were another issue during the audit because many of our coaches were still working towards some of their qualifications and these will all be secured soon.
We had been led by our assessors at the Football League to believe that we would not be marked down on those coaches who were working towards their badges, but in reality we were.
Recruitment is another area that we are going to completely revamp. It was sad to see the demise of the CUCST and the club cannot begin to replace the excellent community projects that they provided.
However, we have expanded our own grass roots coaching to fill the void that they left in this area and that has resulted in closer contact between the club and the local young talent.
If you think you have a young son who is a gifted footballer then please make sure he is involved in at least one of our grass roots projects because all of the coaches are tasked to uncover the next Drey Wright or Alex Gilbey.
And, even if you have a son or daughter who is less talented then please bring them along because the coaching sessions are tremendous fun and the quality of the coaching is excellent.
Our failure to achieve Cat 2 at our first attempt was a major disappointment but to their credit everyone involved in the academy has responded to this set back with added determination and this has been reflected in their recent results.
I have to consider a number of issues before I decide when to go for Category 2 again. But as our audit demonstrated, our academy is Cat 1 quality in most areas and we are not going to allow that to slip.