12:32 15 February 2012
By Latics Staff
Impact of Youth Development Changes at Wigan Athletic
Up to season 2011-12 Wigan Athletic have operated a Centre of Excellence.
This was the lower of the second tier academy system. Most Premier League clubs have operated an Academy for a number of years.
“Whilst our Development Squad have participated in the Premier Reserve League, our junior teams have played against other Centre of Excellence clubs.
Our record at producing professional players from our Centre of Excellence has been relatively poor with only Leighton Baines (registered from age 16) going on to play at the highest level.
Since Roberto Martinez joined Latics as Manager in 2009, the Club has begun to develop u21 players who have been signed from other clubs such as Callum Macmanaman, Nouah Dicko, Danny Redmond, Roman Golobart and Jordan Mustoe. These players have been developed to a level where they have all enjoyed successful loan spells at other clubs gaining valuable experience.
At the end of the 2011-12 season Wigan Athletic applied for Category 2 status due to current limited academy facilities. This season our junior teams from u9s right through to our Development Squad will play other Category 2 clubs. Whilst the ultimate aim is to achieve Category 1 status, having operated a Centre of Excellence previously, we have had to invest and develop our youth development programme over the past six months to raise standards to Academy level to participate at this level for this season. This includes recruiting more coaching, recruitment and medical staff, entering into a partnership with St John Rigby College for extensive use of facilities, and increased coaching hours for all u16 players.”
The fixtures are currently being finalised but opponents include Leicester, Sheffield Wednesday, Sheffield United, Leeds United, Derby County and Birmingham City.
As an established Premier League side our vision is now to operate an academy that can operate at Category 2 level initially and ultimately at Category 1 level. To do this we intend to develop new academy facilities within the next two/three years that will allow us to attract the best talented youngsters and give them the opportunity to benefit from a football philosophy that is becoming embedded into the fabric of the Club by Roberto Martinez. We have some catching up to do in terms of facilities and structure but these are exciting times for youth development at Latics.
The Club has identified youth development as an area for huge improvement to enable the Club to progress at every level. All top level professional clubs are engaged in similar projects to enhance youth set-ups and improve quality and productivity.”
The project to reach Category 2 level is being spearheaded by ex Club Captain Matt Jackson who is overseeing the Academy Operations to ensure we are reaching the guidelines set by the Premier League. Roberto Martinez and his experienced staff including Graham Barrow and John Doolan are implementing coaching techniques and methods that are used at first team level to produce continuity of style and principles throughout the different age groups.
“Wigan Athletic will be part of a revolution that is quietly taking place at football clubs that will give our young players the best opportunity to compete at the highest level developed in an academy structure that eclipses those currently operated in Spain and Germany. Our Chairman David Whelan and Roberto are fully committed to this exciting project”
So when one of Latics’ players scores the winner for England at the Lusail Stadium in Qatar at the 2022 World Cup...remember when that journey started.