HUDDERSFIELD Town have gained category 2 status for their academy under the Football Association’s Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP) – and head of football operations Ross Wilson says it’s a significant step forward.

A youth development scheme initiated by the Premier League and accepted by Football League clubs 2011, the EPPP aims to establish a hierarchy of academies and fix transfer fees.

The plans has six main principles:

l Increasing the number and quality of homegrown players gaining professional contracts and playing first-team football.

l Creating more time for players to play and be coached.

l Improve coaching provision.

l Implementing a system of measurement and quality assurance.

l Encouraging investment into the academy system.

l Making significant gains in every aspect of player development, including education.

There are four categories, with 1 the highest, and the independent auditors consider productivity rates, training facilities and coaching, education and welfare provisions.

The higher the category, the more funding will be available.

Player development is split into four phases: senior professional (age 18-21), professional (16-18), youth (12-16) and foundation (Under 11).

Town have made major investment both in their Canalside training complex and academy staffing levels (there are now 18 full-timers as opposed to the previous four) to meet the EPPP guidelines.

Wilson, who says Town will continue to recruit players at older levels as well, said: “First and foremost this categorisation is a significant achievement.

“Category 2 has many areas that make it really attractive to us as a club.

“For example it allows our academy to recruit and coach players from a younger age (category 4 clubs can only coach in the professional development phase).

“We want to recruit players that we can develop to at least Championship standard. This becomes significantly more difficult if we can only recruit older age levels when many of our competitors in this region have been recruiting from the foundation phase.

“We will then have a longer period to coach and develop these players.

“We also want our young players to face the highest quality of opposition that they can, and under the EPPP, will play clubs at the same level.

“While compensation is also determined by categories, it is not in our plan to transfer players unless our hand is forced.”

l Former Town player and manager Steve Smith has relinquished his role as head of academy recruitment, which was key to gaining category 2 status, to become an academy scout.