Huddersfield Town in youth system shake-up

Huddersfield boss David Wagner
Huddersfield boss David Wagner
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A REORGANISATION of Huddersfield Town’s Academy that will see the club focus solely on Under-18 and Under-23s football in the future has been described by Dean Hoyle as the “biggest” decision of his reign.

The Terriers, after a thorough evaluation of how productive the set-up has been in developing players since the Academy was launched in 1999, have today unveiled plans that will see all age groups from Under-16 downwards scrapped.

Town’s Category 2 status under the Premier League’s Elite Player Performance Plan will also be downgraded to Category 4.

The Yorkshire Post understands Huddersfield spend £20,000 per week on their existing set-up.

That £1m outlay per year by the club will remain unchanged, however, due to any money saved by the planned changes being redirected to the older age groups.

Huddersfield’s review into the Academy since its inception 18 years ago found that only Jon Stead of the youngsters brought through by the club had gone on to play in the Premier League.

Jack Hunt and Alex Smithies have also become established Championship players after joining the Terriers at a young age.

Of the others who have gone on to become first team regulars at the John Smith’s Stadium, Philip Billing was 16 when he joined the Academy. Tommy Smith and Harry Bunn joined the development squad at 20 and 21 respectively.

The success of Smith and Billing, in particular, is why Huddersfield have opted to focus solely on the Under-18s and Under-23s squads in the future.

Town also feel the rules that allow clubs such as Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool and Everton cherry pick youngsters from the Kirklees area make their own task even harder.

Hoyle said: "Since my first year as chairman in 2009, we have taken great pride in always doing things our own way.

“The need to find ways of being competitive is more pertinent than ever following the Club’s promotion to the Premier League. We must find ways of being competitive against our peers.

“Huddersfield Town fully committed to the new EPPP rules introduced by the Premier League in October 2011, investing large sums of money to establish Category 2 status.

“The climate has proven difficult for this club considering EPPP rules and the number of big clubs on our doorstep, which offers strong competition for the best local players with Category 1 sides.

“Our Academy system must provide a strong and obvious pathway to the first team for players who are good enough, whilst also representing value for the club. Upon review, this is not something that we could claim.

“This decision has been the biggest we have undertaken in my time as Chairman, and not an easy one.

“However, we cannot be afraid of change. This is a vital area to the long-term success of this Club and we must make every effort to get this right.”

Around 100 youngsters aged between eight and 16 will be released under the plans. A number of coaches will also leave the club. To try and smooth the transition, the club’s charity, the Town Foundation, will be extended to run further football programmes for children in the area.