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ACADEMY UPDATE | Andy Lowe reflects on Academy progress

An update from Academy Manager Andy Lowe

25 April 2024


ACADEMY UPDATE | Andy Lowe reflects on Academy progress

An update from Academy Manager Andy Lowe

25 April 2024

With the end of the season now approaching, I’d like to reflect on the progress that the Academy has made in the past ten months, since being awarded an EFL academy license.

Firstly, on the field our Under-18 side have made impressive strides and have demonstrated fantastic progress and development which is a huge credit to the coaching department led by Nick Chadwick and the experienced multidisciplinary team of staff we have in the Academy.

It has been a real collective effort from a multitude of experienced staff and everyone pulling in the same direction which I am extremely proud to see as Academy Manager.

With only two games to go our side are currently in second position and have secured a top three finish in the EFL Youth Alliance north-west, and in with a chance of being able to win the title, which is an incredible achievement in their first season in the league. Huge credit must go to all players and staff.

The progress that we have seen in the boys from the start of the season to now in all areas of their development has been a pleasure to see, in terms of their journey and stage at entering the academy system. The players have had to adapt to the demands and expectations of what it takes to be a full-time footballer as well as being part of a club which is experiencing a huge amount of success.

This is their first full season in an EFL licensed academy, with full-time professional training and a games programme against well-established EFL academies. I am delighted to see how each player has fully embraced the opportunity they have been given.

They’ve developed extremely well physically, technically, tactically, and socially. Credit must go to the multidisciplinary team (coaching, sports science, analysis, medical, education, player care, safeguarding, administration, recruitment) for the professional approach adopted to develop our young players – it is a real collective effort which doesn’t go unnoticed.

We are ambitious and obviously want to be the best Academy for producing young players for the first team and beyond, whilst this does not happen overnight and is indeed a long-term project, we do not shy away from those long-term aims and objectives.

Currently we are a Category Four Academy with an Under-18 side, however, the ambition is to improve this status, and will ensure that we can develop players across all age groups.

I was asked during our recent audit what success looks like for an Academy. Whilst an academy will always be judged by the number of players who become professional footballers and rightly so, I believe that is only a small measure of success.

Success involves helping every individual become a better player, a more rounded person and ensuring they have the very best experience possible at Wrexham AFC. 

Not all young people will become professional footballers, but the life experiences, life skills, discipline, standards, wider access to education and player-care that players have access to will ensure we have many more success stories beyond just those of the professional footballer which is often overlooked (certainly outside of the academy system).

In recent years as academy manager, I have witnessed people who have been part of the academy system as players who have become players at higher levels, non-league, scholarships in the USA, coaches, physiotherapists, teachers, analysts, sport scientists and entrepreneurs! Academy football has played its part in those journeys and will continue to do so.

Many of the players we see in the modern game have come through the academy system. Latest figures have shown players developed in EFL academies have made a staggering 3000 plus appearances within the Championship, League One and League Two this season alone.

With one of the EFL’s strategic aims to create more playing opportunities for home-grown players, it is fantastic to see the investment our Club has committed in the Academy for now and the future.

The drive to develop home-grown players for Wrexham AFC is a long-term project, shared by not only academy staff, but by first team staff and at board level too. 

Developing players to become professional footballers is a long-term process and does not happen overnight and I am delighted with the experienced team of staff we have within the Academy and the support the Academy receives from the Club. 

It is very rare to have such close involvement with the first team and our players and staff have daily access via training next to each other and having players being called upon regularly to train and play as has been seen with debuts made this season and regular appearances in the reserve team – invaluable learning opportunities for young players.

There is a genuine interest in the Academy from the senior management of the Club and to see our First Team Manager watching Academy matches, along with our CEO when time allows is incredible, whilst the involvement of the technical board continues to involve focused discussions around the future development of the Academy.

It’s important the next five to ten years we develop players season after season, who can develop into players capable of playing first team-football, this becomes more difficult when being promoted to higher leagues as the standard of player improves.

However, it is important to not lose sight that development does not happen overnight and often involves a long journey of players being in the academy system for many years. Improving our category status in the coming years will be essential for this reason.

As an Academy we will not necessarily be judged on winning games, which is important, and we are doing extremely well at, however our main judgement will be around how many players we produce in the next ten years.

In seven months, we have built a brand-new EFL academy, had safe-to-operate audits, a full PGAAC Audit, Barnardo’s audits, LFE Audits and Health and Safety Audits. Everyone will see what happens on the grass, it’s visible in terms of training and games, however, the progress that we have made as a collective of brand-new staff behind the scenes is a real credit to every member of staff in the Academy.

The mechanics of running an academy are enormous, much of which goes unseen with the many different facets involved to develop players of the future.

The level of professionalism and hard work from all staff needs applauding – they have achieved some fantastic things in such a short period of time. As Academy Manager I’d like to personally thank every member of staff for their hard work and continuous drive to make the Academy and our young people better in all areas of their development.

We want to be the best in everything that we do. It’s great that none of our staff settle for second best. I’d like to thank all the players and how they have adapted to their first season in full-time football and finally the parents, the support and commitment from parents in academy football is incredible.

A lot has been achieved, however, there is so much more still to do and we’re looking forward to the challenge ahead. 

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