NEWPORT County AFC’s chances of unearthing future first team stars has been handed a significant boost with the status of the club’s academy receiving an upgrade.

Following an application to the English Football League and Premier League last week, the Exiles have been granted EPPP (Elite Player Performance Plan) Category 3 academy status.

Over the past few years the academy has produced the likes of Regan Poole, Lee Evans and Aaron Collins – all three played for the first XI and then secured moves to clubs at a higher level.

Academy graduates Momodou Touray and Jay Foulston also represented Michael Flynn’s side last season, and now it is hoped that the academy will produce more youngsters for senior football.

“I am pleased the club is now in a position to transition to a Category 3 academy,” said academy manager Byron Anthony.

“The move will allow us to employ additional full-time staff, improve our operations and communications, as well as increase the quality of players being developed though the pathway as a result of increased player contact time.

“The club has, in recent seasons, produced some very good players via its academy, however, many of these have left without the club receiving compensation rights.

“Category 3 will provide increased security for its players, as well as the ability to claim compensation for the time invested in them.

“That aside, our priority and focus is to develop players who can transition to the first team at the end of their scholarship.”

County’s academy has been constantly improving and developing in recent seasons in order to improve the level of coaching, welfare and player development.

At the start of the 2017/18 campaign the club implemented a restructure of its academy in order to help improve its financial performance, player development pathway and quality of coaching.

The club implemented the new structure over the course of the season, resulting in the academy engaging with more than 400 players and 50 staff.

There are four categories of academy. Category 1 to 3 academies register players from the under-nine age group through to professionals.

The Category 4 model operates from the under-17 age group upwards, while Category 1 is the highest status any academy can reach.