AFC Bournemouth youth team manager Alan Connell admits the academy must reach Category Two status to catch up with their Premier League opponents.
The category system, introduced as part of the Elite Player Performance Plan in October 2011, placed the Cherries –who were still in League One at the time- in Category Three. Despite having climbed up the divisions to reach the Premier League since then, their academy hasn’t reached a higher category.
This means that aside from newly promoted Huddersfield Town, who restructured their youth system from Cat Two to Cat Four in September 2017, AFC Bournemouth are the only Premier League club below Category Two status.
Speaking after the Cherries’ FA Youth Cup defeat to Tottenham Alan Connell said: “As an academy we’re trying to improve all the time and close in on the Category One teams.
“It’s difficult because they’re playing against Liverpool and in the Champions League and obviously our games programme is very different to that. I believe we are closing the gap. With the new training ground coming and the plans for the academy, hopefully in the years to come we’ll get further and further in the Youth Cup.”
Burnley have shown that the step up to Category Two can be made, as they successfully made the transition in June 2017. This is something that Connell feels Bournemouth can replicate, he said: “I feel the academy has progressed a lot. With the standard of the coaching and the players it’s improved massively all the time.
“With the further investment this season, more full time staff and the training ground plans, we’re trying to get to Category 2 status as soon as possible to play in a better games programme. The plans and ambitions are all there so I genuinely believe the future is really bright.”
Bournemouth will feel that they have the quality amongst their ranks to take the step up after reaching the FA Youth Cup fourth round for the first time since 1997 and winning the Category Three League Cup last season.
Jack Simpson is the only academy graduate to make a first team appearance this season, playing 72 minutes against Manchester City as well as getting a goal and assist in the Carabao Cup against Middlesbrough.
However, Connell feels that there will be many more breaking through, he said: “I believe we’ve got some really talented players, not just at Under 18 level but below that as well. So hopefully there will be a lot more home grown players coming through in the future.
“Obviously there’s Jack Simpson, Matt Butcher, Kyle Taylor and Sam Surridge flying the flag and there’s other good ones as well. So hopefully that production line keeps coming and they push the boys on.”
The aim is clearly to bring through players to help AFC Bournemouth’s first team retain their Premier League place, something which Bournemouth feel obtaining Category Two status will help.