Search for players no easier '“ Duff
Clarets coach Michael Duff believes his new role has become even harder, despite the Academy becoming a Category 2 operation.
The club was granted its new status last week by the Premier League after passing its audit under the Elite Player Performance Plan.
A £10.6m investment at the Barnfield Training Centre at Gawthorpe has seen a large section dedicated to the provision of development and youth football with 23 full-time staff employed to oversee everything.
However, despite a significant upgrade, with facilities now rated at a Category 1 standard, the catchment area still poses unenviable competition levels from more established setups.
“It’s important and it’ll help us to recruit better players,” said the 39-year-old defender. “With our Premier League status going up a category in the academy, it will hopefully improve the players that we get.
“It’s still difficult, though. Look at where we are geographically. There are 20 Cat One teams, there’s Man City, Man United, Liverpool, Everton, Blackburn.
“They’re aggressive as well. If there’s a good kid they’ll just go ‘bang’. They’re spending more money than anyone else on academy football. Chelsea win the FA Youth Cup every year and they can’t get a player in the first team. It shows you how hard it is.
“They’re spending a lot of money so it’s hard to compete. We’re no different to the first team. You’re trying to attract players but they get the best ones. We’re trying to find players. It’s not an excuse, it’s just the reality of it.”
Duff, who was promoted three times to the Premier League with the Clarets, also feels that finding a player with the calibre to potentially push towards the senior squad has grown even more difficult due to the financial clout that the club possesses.
With the club breaking its transfer record three times last season, Duff said: “It’s just got harder because the club will go to another level now, bringing in more players and spending more money. But you can hide behind it or take on the challenge of trying to get a player.
“We’ve had two teenage debuts this year (Aiden O’Neill and Dan Agyei) so there is a sign of progress. They’re a long way from being first team players but it’s a start. It’s good for the young lads to see these players getting some football.
“We’ve stopped to watch the first team train a couple of times so they get a taste of the intensity and the quality and the speed of it.
“Until you’re stood next to it you don’t understand how quick it is. It’s alright watching from the back of the stand because it looks easy from there.”