Colchester United secure Academy Category Two status, but for how long?

U's chairman, Robbie Cowling

U's chairman, Robbie Cowling - Credit: Archant

Colchester United WILL be granted Category Two Academy status, in the Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP), for next season.

However, this terrific news has been tempered by the knowledge that the U’s must find a more suitable indoor training facility, otherwise they will lose their precious Category Two tag.

A year ago, the League One club had failed to meet the required standard to be granted Academy Two status by just three percent, following an assessment by an independent audit panel.

That was a big blow to the U’s, and owner and chairman Robbie Cowling in particular – the whole future of the Essex club has been chanelled into producing largely home-grown players, through a successful Academy programme, rather then recruiting the bulk of their players through the transfer market.

Despite last year’s failure to win Category Two status – an accolade which ensures extra funding, better quality of opposition in regular fixtures, and also greater protection against other clubs poaching the U’s best young talent – Cowling decided to persist with the same Academy budget for the following year. Steps were taken to improve the Academy set-up, so that the U’s would pass this year’s audit, which took place last month – the final decision was made over the weekend.

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But whereas the initial news is good, it is by no means certain that the U’s will be able to retain their Category Two status.

“The good news is that we will get Category Two this season,” revealed Cowling over the weekend.

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“However, the bad news is that they are going to set a deadline for when the indoor ball court is in operation.

“They will not accept either the current surface at Warriors (Warrior’s Rest facility at Tiptree) or the ancillary facilities there.

“So we may need to find an alternative venue, and very quickly, or we’ll be back to square one again!

“Until I know the deadline and our options, I have nothing really further to add,” concluded Cowling.

The EPPP saw the introduction of a four-tier academy system in 2012.

The U’s previous failure to secure Category Two status frustrated Cowling and first team manager Joe Dunne, because it meant their development side had to rely on friendly fixtures for competitive action, rather than be involved in a structured league.

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