Birmingham continue to pursue Cat 1 and appoint new Academy boss
Written by Training Ground Guru — December 8, 2020
MIKE DODDS has been promoted to Academy Manager by Birmingham City as the club insist they will still continue with their pursuit of Category One status.
The club are currently carrying out a review of their youth set-up and there is a lot of confusion about the direction that will be taken - to say the least.
In September, Birmingham announced that they had applied for Category One status and that the Academy "represents the backbone of our football structure.”
Yesterday evening, reports emerged (including on this website) that the Blues were set to scrap their teams below the Professional Development Phase (Under-17s). In response, Birmingham issued a downbeat statement that they were “looking at remodelling the Academy system and exploring a B and C Team model,” citing the challenges of Covid-19 and Brexit.
"In the current climate, with the associated costs of operating an Academy system of 10 different age groups, developing value is becoming increasingly difficult," they added.
“The club acknowledge that the proposed changes will impact a number of current staff and players within the existing system."
The club also emailed the parents of Academy players to say: "The club have been researching ways for a period of time of restructuring the Academy with a specific focus on re-branding the Professional Development Phase in order to increase productivity, opportunity and pathway within the Academy to support the first team."
However, they have now said they are only pursuing a B and C team model and will leave the Foundation and Youth Development phases intact. It is questionable whether this would be conducive to the stipulations of being a Category One Academy though, as this requires participation in the U18s Premier League and Premier League 2.
Whilst announcing the appointment of 34-year-old Dodds as Academy Manager, Birmingham said: “In terms of the U9s through to the U16s, it will be business as usual.
“The club maintains the position that the Pre-Academy and Schoolboy programme (U9s to U16s) remains an integral part of the success of the Football Club.
“In the avoidance of confusion, the Foundation Phase (8 to 12 years) and Youth Development Phase (12 to 16 years) will continue to operate as normal whilst the club will explore a variety options at the Professional Development Phase.
“We hope the club’s position has been clarified and we will continue to communicate with staff, players and parents to offer further transparency.
“Changes to the existing Academy system will have no bearing on the club’s pursuit of Category One status within the Elite Player Performance Plan framework.”
The club said that “adopting a B and C team model remains the most likely outcome.”
Dodds will head up a Senior Academy Management Team along with Stuart English (Head of Academy Football Operations and Coaching), Mark Sinclair (Head of Operations and Development) and Simon Jones (Head of Youth Recruitment and Emerging Talent).
He replaces Kristjaan Speakman, who moved to Sunderland as Sporting Director last week following 14 years with the Blues.
Dodds joined Birmingham in 2009 and worked with their U16s before being promoted to U23s assistant and Head of the Professional Development Phase in August 2020.
“After meeting with the Board of Directors, the general feeling was that they were very comfortable with the 9-16 programme and we are incredibly competitive in that area locally,” said Dodds.
“We had discussions around the U18s and U23s teams, which we’ll continue to have over the next few months as we lead into the final stages of our category one process.
“In terms of the B and C team model, we’ll be evaluating the games, the recruitment of players and the staffing because we have to try to raise the standards within those development phase age groups.
“In terms of the U9s through to the U16s, it will be business as usual. We have some outstanding staff who do some fantastic work from a coaching perspective and the club don’t want to disrupt that.
“If you ask anyone in the local region, we’re incredibly competitive. We have to retain the culture at the club and make sure every child that walks through our doors have an authentic experience.
“The review process is more around the older age groups and how we bridge the gap from the top end of the Academy and the first team.
“There’s been a lot of anxiety over the past 24 hours, so from this point onwards our actions will speak louder than words.”