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ACADEMY | An update from Academy Manager Andy Lowe

Academy Manager reflects on a successful 2023 for the Academy and outlines future plans

4 March 2024

Club News

ACADEMY | An update from Academy Manager Andy Lowe

Academy Manager reflects on a successful 2023 for the Academy and outlines future plans

4 March 2024

Academy Manager Andy Lowe has issued an update to supporters to discuss the Academy’s progress over the past few months and a look ahead to what the future holds.

Firstly, I’d like to extend my thanks to all Academy staff, wider Club staff, players and parents for the warm welcome I’ve received since joining the Club.

2023 was a record-breaking and memorable year on all levels, with the Club’s double promotion, as the men’s first team returned to the EFL, and the women’s first team were promoted to the Genero Adran Premier.  

Following on from those promotions, the Club also announced the setting up of a new Academy under the EPPP licence model.

Since the summer, there has been a monumental effort to appoint fourteen key members of staff in roles to allow the Academy to operate smoothly, under the stringent expectations which are required from the PGAAC audit company.

Everyone involved in the audit should be extremely proud of their efforts and achievements so far.

It has been fantastic to see the positivity that the introduction of the Academy has brought within the club in such a short period of time.

I’d like to place on record my thanks to Martin Hunter, who played a key role as a part of the collective staff that initially set up the Academy. His work in recruiting staff and laying out plans for us as an EFL academy has been extremely important.

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We now have eighteen full-time contracted scholars, who have formed our Under-18 side and train full-time, as well as undertaking a bespoke education programme to ensure they are best prepared for the next stages of their development.

On the pitch, things have been going well, with all the players experiencing full-time football for the first time in their young careers.

Individually and collectively the players are progressing well and going from strength to strength, quickly adapting to life in the EFL Youth Alliance.

At the time of writing this, they have picked up a good set of results, whilst also putting in consistent performances across the course of the 2023/24 season.

In September, it was great to see first-year scholars Harry Ashfield, Callum Edwards and James Rainbird all sign their first professional contracts.

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Both Harry and Callum have been involved with the first team this season, as Harry made his first team debut against Crewe Alexandra, while Callum also made the bench.

Signing your first professional contract is a moment that the players and their families will remember for the rest of their lives.

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We were extremely proud of Callum, Harry and James and I’d like to again congratulate the players on their achievements.  

They know it’s only the start of their journey and the players have been given an opportunity which they must embrace and continue to work harder than ever before in all areas of their game. 

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Becoming a professional player is a long journey and requires huge commitment, and I’d like to go on record and thank the players’ parents, staff and everyone who has been a part of their journey to date in recent years and to date.

Furthermore, it has been fantastic to see the link developed with the academy and first team, with many players regularly training with the first team squad and playing in several reserve team fixtures.

This is fantastic for their personal development and gaining an insight into the demands of professional football.

Off the pitch, we were awarded Category Four status as an EFL academy for the 2023/24 campaign with the short-term aim to reach Category Three status in the near future, very much already in our minds.

However, this does not happen overnight, and the volume of work involved to achieve this will be a significant including many people in the Club, including staff, players and parents. 

In addition to this, we are pleased to have also passed our Safe to Operate audit, Health and Safety audit and LFE Audit.

Collectively, over 130 meetings have taken place with parents across all age groups over the past few months, to integrate all levels of the Academy where possible.

We hope 2024 will continue to be a year of progress and growth for the Academy, where our expectations will remain.

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We’ve already made vast strides in such a short period of time since September, however there is much more to be done both on and off the field and we all have a collective responsibility to ensure we operate to the highest standards possible in all that we do.

As always, we will continue to strive to develop our young people daily, and it will continue to be a huge focus of ours.

Finally, I’d like to say a huge thank you to the Board, Fleur, Les, Phil, and the first-team staff. The support that we have received has been fantastic with a real show of intent and collective responsibility in all that we do, which has been evident from the start.


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