Blues' Academy boss on gaining Category Three status...Having obtained Category Three status following a Football League audit last spring, Southend United’s Academy Manager Ricky Duncan believes that the club are not far from making the step up to Category Two in the future.
“I was really pleased when the report came back. We got a very, very good report,” he declared. “When you look at the percentages you need to get for each Category, it depends not just on the coaching programme but also the facilities and the staffing levels and what you’ve got in place. When you look at what we’ve got, and the percentages that we got in the audit, we weren’t far off being a Category Two club.”
“The areas that we need to improve on, that hopefully will come in the future, are facilities - you have to have an indoor dome and other space, and then the staffing levels. At the moment, we only have to employ six full-time staff within the youth department, but if we were to go for Category Two, that jumps to fifteen, so obviously we’d have to employ another ten people here and we’d have to have bigger office space as well.”
“The facilities are something that we need to improve, and that will be something that’ll happen as the club grows, but the actual coaching programme that we run at the club got very good marks and that stands us in good stead,” he continued.
“The coaches that we’ve got working here, such as Danny Heath and Dave Johnson, have both started work on their UEFA A Licence, and hopefully Dave Huzzey will soon start on his A Licence prep so, in 18 months’ time we’ll have a lot of A Licence coaches and you get more marks for that. Hopefully we’ve got a good base now and, as the club progresses, it won’t take a lot for us to push towards Category Two status, which is what we want.”
The former Cambridge United coach, who is embarking on his tenth season in charge during his second spell at Blues’ youth department, feels his current club are one of the top Category Three Academies in the country: “I would say that we’d be right up there,” he stated.
“There are mandatory requirements that you have to achieve and, after getting the report and going up and seeing the auditors, we only had six mandatories left. By the time we came out of the meeting that was down to four. I don’t think there are many clubs that only have four mandatories to achieve by January, which is a good statement about where we’re at.”
“The mandatory requirements are very important within the programme, whether you have 15 or four, and the auditors just want you to put things right to keep improving the programme, and that’s what we’ll keep doing to provide players for our first team.”
“That’s what I want, and hopefully that’ll start showing this year with the boys that have gone through and Phil Brown has taken on. Hopefully over the next couple of years we’ll get a few more going across and showing they’re worth the investment we’re putting in,” he continued.
“The boys that are coming through this year like Sonny Coutts and Harry Phillips have been here since they were nine. I think that most of the boys that were out there in our last friendly have been here since they were 12 and I think the latest age is 14, so we’ve not had to look outside to bring anyone in.”
“I think that shows in our play because of the philosophy of what we want as a football club and because they feel it’s their club. They’ve been here so long that it’s part of them; it’s part of their lives and it’s part of their families’ lives. It’s their football club.”
“Those players want to play in the first team, and I’ve always said if we can get that going - and this is the year that we’ve got to that stage - we’re going to have a conveyor belt of players coming into the youth team as well as the first team,” he concluded.