Academy Operations Manager Graham Lancashire on the challenge to improve under EPPP guidelines.The landscape is changing for clubs, who have adopted the Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP); a long-term strategy designed to take Premier League Youth Development to the next level.
EPPP is the result of consultation between the Premier League and its clubs, representatives of the Football League, the Football Association and other key football stakeholders.
And at Turf Moor, the challenge for senior staff is to meet the stringent requirements, and, importantly, bring through the next generation of Clarets stars.
Lancashire, who made his Burnley debut in 1989 and re-joined the Clarets in his new role six-years ago, said: “There’s been a lot changes in the Academy and it hasn’t been easy.
“A lot of hard work has gone on behind the scenes to bring the Academy forward, and hopefully that will be rewarded with players coming through and pulling on a Burnley shirt for the first team.
“EPPP has been brought in to streamline all of the academies and Football League clubs.
“The elite clubs are all Category One status with state of the art facilities, a large number of staff and all of their players have a full time schedule.
“A Category Two programme isn’t quite as elite, with a little less training and less committed time given to the players, with less staff.
“Like Burnley, the majority of the clubs around the country are at the Category Three status, where again the level of time committed to the players and staffing drops. However, our plan and vision is to improve that and bring the club on further.”
The £10.6m Barnfield Training Centre, due to be completed in the summer of 2017, is crucial to that improvement in status.
And Lancashire explained what difference the changes will make to the day-to-day life at Burnley Football Club.
He said: “The academy is currently based at Turf Moor, which means staff and players all have to commute to the training ground daily, which is not ideal.
“However the plan for the new training ground, would put the Academy, development squad and first team all under one roof for the first time in the club’s history, which is massive!
“As it stands, the First Team players see the Youth Team players in passing, but in the future they will be working, eating and changing alongside each other, which will make a big difference.
A state-of-the-art new indoor facility and additional training pitches will help the club achieve Category Two status,
And Lancashire hopes improved opposition will also be a benefit for the club’s younger players, who currently either ply their trade in the Youth Alliance league or compete in friendlies as part of the development squad.
He explained: “The plan is to be a Category Two club by the time the new training ground is up and running in 16 months or so.
“This would mean the overall standard of opposition we will be playing against will be far better, which can only benefit the players and club.”
Lancashire added: “The Academy isn’t a results business. Obviously we would like to win games, but the be all and end all for us is to produce players.
“If that means we lose every week but still bring players through to be professional footballers, then that’s fantastic and our objective is ticked for the season.
“We have an excellent pool of talent coming through the system at the minute, right from pre-Academy all the way through to the U16s.
“That is mainly due to the players and families preferring our pathway to the first team, rather than going to a Category One club where they may be replaced by a million pound prospect.
“However, the big clubs doing that also benefits Burnley, like when we purchased Kieran Trippier and Ben Mee from Manchester City, as their pathway to the first team was blocked.”
Lancashire stressed the future of Burnley Football Club and the Academy is looking incredibly bright and exciting, with more players now looking to join Burnley.
He said: “As you can see with the first team, we don’t need to sell players. We have a good base at first team level, an excellent squad in the U21s, with the recent additions to that squad externally and internally, and good players all the way down through the Academy.
“If we produce an environment where players learn and given an opportunity, I’m sure players will want to stay regardless, because they will be playing week-in-week-out and they will be enjoying themselves which is critical.
“Producing Jay (Rodriguez) has been our shining light, and he is now our target for the players coming through.
“There were players aged nine or 10 when I arrived, who I am now looking at and thinking they could be around our first team in the next two or three years.
“Ultimately that’s what all fans want; players coming through the system and pulling on a Claret shirt at Turf Moor!”