MANAGER Michael Flynn has hailed the news that the Newport County AFC academy has achieved category three status as “a big step forward for the club”.

County announced yesterday that they have been granted EPPP (Elite Player Performance Plan) category three academy status.

There are four categories of academy. Category one to three academies register players from the under-nine age group through to professionals. Category one is the highest status of academy.

The category four model, the level the Exiles were at before this announcement, is a late development model operating from the under-17 age group upwards.

First team manager Flynn has welcomed the news.

“It’s really good. It’s huge. It’s a big step forward for the club,” he said.

“It shows that the club is trying to do the right things.

“There’s still a lot of work to do; everything is not as it should be but we’re learning and we’ve identified what we need to improve on and it’s positive.”

Academy manager Byron Anthony highlighted the positives of the upgrade.

He told the club’s official website: “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 three 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.”

Lee Evans, Regan Poole and Aaron Collins have all progressed from the academy to the first team and been sold on by the Exiles in the last five years.

But youngsters like Rhys Davies and Rhys Kavanagh have moved on to Leicester City and Bristol Rovers with the Exiles receiving minimal compensation.

And operational chairman Gavin Foxall is happy with the increased level of security that the move to category three status affords County.

“It’s a great boost for the club,” said Foxall.

“It secures the future of our youth and our investment.

“Previously we’ve lost players to other clubs in and around the area and there hasn’t been any financial compensation that’s gone along with that.

“We hope it secures from a younger age group upwards that if we develop players and we invest in players and they do go on to bigger and better things then the club is compensated accordingly.

“We’ve had a few players who we’ve lost to various clubs that if we had category three status we would have been compensated accordingly.

“And the way the system works, you’ll probably get more than you would for a first team player who has got 700 games under his belt.

“We’ve got to make sure that we embrace that and I think that with the investment that the club and the Trust is putting in to the academy the future looks bright.”

Foxall also said the news is a tribute to the hard work of everyone involved in the academy.

“It’s great news for the club because it shows progression and it’s a reward for all the hard work that has gone in from many different people who’ve been involved with the academy over a number of years,” he said.

“For the last year they’ve almost been running it as a shadow category three academy anyway and it’s been operating as that in all but name.

“They’ve proved the shadow model and it’s gone from a very small base to 400+ kids and 50-odd coaches.

“This is a natural progression and the board are really keen to support what we see as our future.”