Paul Reid and Stewart Donald react as Sunderland's academy is again awarded Category One status
Sunderland’s academy is to maintain its Category One status after a recent audit from the Premier League.
The audit takes place independently every three years, and the Black Cats have again been given elite status.
Academies are graded from one to four, and the decision means significant investment in the club’s operation.
A club statement said that the report had shown a ‘substantial’ improvement from when the last audit was held.
The academy continues to face a number of challenges as the first team bids to climb its way back up the divisions.
Results at the U18 and U23 age group have been poor this season, with the club facing difficulties in retaining their best players before they can commit to professional terms at the age of 17.
Talented left-back Logan Pye was the latest to leave, joining Manchester United. A number of other players have joined top Premier League clubs such as Arsenal and Liverpool.
Former Academy Director Ged McNamee recently returned as Head of Recruitment, and director Paul Reid said maintaining category one status was a crucial step in addressing the issues.
“We have a great framework in place, giving us solid foundations on which to continue to develop the Academy,” he said.
“Being awarded Category One is a great achievement, but we know there is still much work to be done. We’ve brought in new staff to complement our existing team and are in the process of revamping our recruitment department, with the aim of expanding our reach and targeted talent pool and in turn, making the Academy stronger.
“The under 9-16 age groups are excelling, which is really pleasing to see.
“We know there are challenges at present with the under 18 and under 23 age groups,” he added.
“The task at these age groups is to compete against the very best in the country on what is an uneven playing field. The pleasing aspect of this result is that the elements within our control have been independently graded as elite and we have given ourselves the very best chance of addressing this specific test.
“As a group we are embracing these challenges and finding the best way forward for our players and the Academy as a whole.
“We have a fantastic team of people here, who work tirelessly on behalf of the club and so to be recognised among the very best youth academies in the country is something we are all rightly very proud of.
“I would like to personally thank them for their diligence during the audit process and their commitment to upholding the principles and values of our Academy in everything they do.”
Chairman Stewart Donald said that developing home grown talent continues to be ‘key’ for the Black Cats.
“Developing home grown talent is key for our club and a thriving youth development programme should always be one of our core principles,” he said.
“I am especially delighted for the Academy staff, they do an incredible job day in day out and we very much appreciate their hard work.”