Norwich City planning for a bright future

Norwich City chief executive David McNally yesterday pledged to press ahead with plans to develop the next generation of young Canaries after the club's academy was officially granted category one status.

City can now revolutionise their junior set-up after completing a successful audit to comply with the new 'Elite Player Performance Plan' (EPPP) proposals designed to overhaul youth football in this country.

The Canaries will form part of the elite vanguard of top domestic rivals who can compete for the best youngsters nationwide in a bid to produce City's future stars.

'We are thrilled to have been granted category one status as this will allow us to be at the forefront of elite youth development in England and will provide us with a competitive advantage over many years,' said McNally. 'Having been restricted more so than any other club in the country by the 90-minute travel time, we are really looking forward to recruiting the best players nationally and plans are already in place to make the most of this opportunity immediately. All credit should go to Ricky Martin and his colleagues for achieving Category One status and we now look forward to them developing our academy into one of the very best in the country.'

City have been granted a three-year licence after pushing ahead with an expansion drive over recent months to recruit extra coaches and staff to comply with the independent audit. As part of the ambitious plans, the club's Colney training centre will also continue to undergo a major structural re-development to meet the infrastructure needs of the project.

A statement on the club website said: 'Part of the push for EPPP category one status has included a huge recruitment drive, with the academy adding even more talented coaches and staff to their ranks in order to help players develop at the club.

'This becomes even more significant should the club ever qualify for European competition again in the future, with UEFA rules stipulating that clubs must run a youth programme and its coaches have a minimum number of badges.'

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McNally, speaking earlier during the audit process in October, had previously outlined the longer term vision is to ensure City reap the benefits from a steady stream of fresh talent.

'We believe it would take only one player to come through each year to be part of a 25-man Premier League squad to make this self-financing,' he said. 'The financial investment is huge, but we think we can get pay back.'

The first visible signs of the overhaul in youth football at the elite level has already been seen this season with the Premier League U21 development structure replacing the previous model of reserve team football.