EXCLUSIVE: Huddersfield to scrap all age groups below U18s

HUDDERSFIELD TOWN are downgrading their Academy from Category Two to Category Four status, meaning they will only now run Under-18 and Under-23 squads.

The Terriers have been Category Two since the EPPP system was introduced by the Premier League in 2011, allowing them to recruit at Under-8 level.

Chairman Dean Hoyle said the decision had been the “biggest” in his eight years as chairman of the club, but that “we cannot be afraid of change”. Huddersfield say the Academy is costing £1m a year to run, or £20,000 a week, and that only one true Academy product has gone on to play Premier League football since 1999 - Jon Stead.

Other young players who have broken into the first team have been recruited at older ages - Philip Billing, who arrived as a 16-year-old from Esberg, Tommy Smith, who was recruited at 20 from Manchester City and Harry Bunn, who was also signed from City at the age of 21.

Huddersfield insist that any savings will be re-invested into the U18 and U23 sides, in terms of coaching, facilities and recruitment. Staff and players affected were informed of the decision last night and there will now be a one-month consultation period before the Academy is officially downgraded.

The U18 and U23 squads will now play “carefully planned programmes of games against top-class opposition”, like Brentford, who closed their Academy last season.

The club added that it “is also fiercely proud of its important role in junior football in its community and will fulfil that commitment through the recent expansion of the Town Foundation charity, which will run a full spectrum of football programmes for children and youths in the area.”

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.”

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