Saints are delighted to announce that its Academy has been awarded Category One status as part of the EPPP.
The EPPP (Elite Player Performance Plan) is a Premier League initiative backed by the Football League and the FA with the aim of rejuvenating youth football in this country.
Saints are undoubtedly leading the way with English player development and are committed to revolutionising the way that players are produced from within the Academy, by producing a pathway into the First Team.
Several factors were taken into account when finalising the categories applied for by clubs across the country, including: the number of players going on to play at first team level, the quality of facilities, the quality of coaching and education, as well as welfare provisions.
Ahead of the 2012-13 season Saints have already revealed that James Ward-Prowse, Jack Stephens, Luke Shaw, and Calum Chambers will all be included in the First Team selection at Premier League level, with the quartet of youngsters having made their way through the development pathway already firmly in place at the Academy.
The standards of coaching set within the Football Development Support Centre (FDSC) at Staplewood are being applied at national level too.
Saints will represent the Premier League as one of three clubs in Europe used to demonstrate the techniques put into practice at the Club's training ground, with these set to be implemented at the new National Football Centre in Burton.
As part of the classification, there will also be a new Under-21 league introduced to provide a competitive element within the new categories. This will be mirrored at Under-18 and Under-16 level with opponents falling into line across all three age groups over the course of each weekend.
The plans may appear as a radical shake up of youth development football, but the long established programmes already put into practice at Staplewood mean that Saints are already more than equipped to comply with the new format.
FDSC Director Les Reed commented:
"We are very proud of our history in developing top players and discovering young talent.
"The achievement of Category One status, however, is the result of over two years of hard work and substantial investment driven by our Chairman, Nicola Cortese, in the pursuit of building the country's number one Academy, and developing the 'Southampton Way' philosophy of building a Premier League squad of the future upon the foundation of a core of graduates from within.
"The audit process and the feedback we have received clearly indicates we are at the top of this list of Category One Academies, and the promotion of four of our Academy products into the current First Team squad bears testimony to this success.
"We have an excellent team of staff led by Academy Manager Matt Crocker and first-class coaches guided by Under-21 Coach Martin Hunter, including: Jason Dodd, Paul Williams and Graeme Murty who are all firmly embedded in 'The Southampton Way'. But, this has been a team effort and there are many unsung heroes - too many to mention - who also deserve credit.
"We look forward to competing in the Barclays Premier Development League and also in Europe at this level in the near future."