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Wanderers are excited to launch a plan to instate a Professional Development Phase (PDP) scheme.
The initiative was formally launched by chairman Andrew Howard, manager Gareth Ainsworth and assistant manager Richard Dobson at a fans forum last night. The scheme, which will widen the club’s capacity to nurture the talents of young players under the age of 21, requires funding from supporters and businesses to achieve its objectives.
The first target is to raise £100,000 which will fund up to five young players and a development coach, who would work alongside the first-team staff to assist the progress of those players on and off the pitch.
The club hopes to be in a position in the short to mid-term future to have the option of expanding the programme to cover younger age groups, if the financial position is stable enough to support the system.
Andrew Howard said: “This is a significant step forward for the club and enables us to broaden our horizons in terms of developing the talents of our young players.
"Gareth and his staff have done an outstanding job working with the smallest squad in the Football League, and have rightly received plaudits from other clubs with respect to the progress that young players have made under their tutelage.
"But having such a small squad places limitations on the progress that can be made on the pitch, and the Professional Development Phase scheme will give us as a better chance of moving towards becoming a sustainable club at League 1 level in the near future.
"This scheme can only work with the contributions of our supporters, but I hope they can recognise that this is the most exciting and innovative development that the club has made in recent times, and it’s up to all of us to make it work.”
Gareth Ainsworth said: “It’s brilliant for me as a manager to have the opportunity to expand the squad and continue to bring young players into the professional game, whether it be for our benefit on the pitch or moving them on to other clubs.
"At present, we don’t have enough players to train with 11 v 11 scenarios, or to stage reserve games, which means some of our players go weeks without kicking a ball in a match situation.
"Our supporters will have seen what this club can achieve by bringing through young talents and I’m sure they are very proud of what’s gone on before. Now’s their chance to play their part in creating a legacy for the future by making this programme a success.”
Dependent on the success of the PDP scheme, the club may then look to begin planning for Category 4 academy status, which allows for the provision of an under-18 team to play in the Football League Youth Alliance. This phase entitles clubs to some funding from the Football League but further investment would be required to make it feasible.
Details of how supporters and businesses can contribute to the scheme will be communicated in due course.