Derby County is delighted to announce that the Club’s Academy has achieved Category One status.
Category One is the highest ranking for Academy set-ups under the Premier League’s Elite Players Performance Plan (EPPP), which was introduced two years ago.
Derby had previously been operating at Category Two status, but were re-audited earlier this year and achieved the relevant requirements to become only the sixth Championship club to operate a Category One youth set-up.
Up to 10 different factors are considered in the grading, including productivity rates; training facilities; and coaching, education and welfare provisions, with Derby scoring excellent marks.
A considerable amount of work across various levels of the Club has been put in to meet the EPPP’s strict guidelines and demonstrates the Ownership Group’s commitment towards youth development.
Derby’s Academy has built a strong reputation in recent years and the Club is committed to building on those excellent foundations in future.
The likes of England Under 21 international Will Hughes and Republic of Ireland international Jeff Hendrick have graduated through the youth set-up and into the first team squad in recent years, as well as the Football League’s Championship Scholar of the Year, Mason Bennett.
As well as the day-to-day running of the Academy, the Club has had to invest heavily in its facilities and infrastructure at the Training Centre and is currently close to completing the installation of state of the art artificial and grass training pitches, along with floodlights. Further phased development Is planned for the coming years.
The benefits of Category One status include the ability to recruit players from further afield, while Derby’s Under 21, 18 & 16 sides will now compete in the Premier League of their respective age groups.
This will mean they will be competing at the same level of the Premier League’s heavyweights, such as Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal.
President & Chief Executive Sam Rush commented: “This is tremendous news for Derby County and a wonderful accolade for the club.
“Our Academy Manager Darren Wassall and his team deserve enormous credit for all their hard work over many years and they will now be rewarded by playing matches against the best teams in the country.
"The future of the club is in safe hands and much credit should be given to the Ownership Group for their investment which ensured that the facilities and infrastructure have been judged to be of the highest standard.
"A top level academy is critical to the success of a Football Club and it is very much at the heart of our strategy at Derby County. We will aim to continue our excellent record in bringing talented young players into our first team and confirmation that we have reached Category One status will ensure that we continue to attract the best young players in the country.”
Academy Manager Darren Wassall said: “It is a great tribute to everyone involved in the Academy over the past few years that we have been awarded Category One Status.”
“The Club have shown their commitment to the development of young home grown players over the past five seasons and there are many other exciting prospects in the Academy system that we hope will follow in their footsteps in the coming years.
“This is a great reward for all of the staff connected with the Academy in terms of the continued development of our youth programme on a daily basis, and is also great credit to the owners and board of Directors who have supported the aims of the Academy both on a financial basis and philosophical level.
“Our young players will now be tested week in week out against the best this country has to offer. It also enables us to be given more opportunities against European opposition, a vital part of a young player's education.”
He added: “Special credit should go to all the full and part time staff who have worked tirelessly on the 'Academy Project’ in recent years.
“It is because of them and the environment that they have created that our young players are able to flourish and that they now have the opportunity at Category One Level.”
The Under 21 & Under 18 Premier League fixtures will be announced in due course and communicated to supporters on www.dcfc.co.uk.