Under new EPPP (Elite Player Performance Plan) guidelines the youth section has been redefined into three categories - the Foundation Phase (7-11), The Youth Phase (12-16) and the Professional Development Phase, (17-21 years old).
The Professional Development Phase is the newest category, this being the section where Youth Team (U-18) players join the senior ranks of a football club, with a designated coach for this age group.
The coach being responsible for creating specific training sessions for these players, both individually and collectively, to enable them to develop both technically and physically in addition to their daily training program within the senior set-up.
Many of our players who fall into this category have already appeared in the first team but it is hoped we can develop them significantly via this program.
It is widely accepted that players rarely graduate from being youth team players into regular first team players unless they are exceptional, with many making the transition at a later age.
But with the introduction of the Professional Development Phase, players will now be given more time and opportunity to develop into more accomplished footballers and thus be better equipped to make the step into first team football when the chance arises.
Our development squad will play fixtures against other development squads as it is mandatory that clubs have SDS if they wish to achieve their category status, whilst also loaning out our players to other clubs, usually non- league, to aid their development.
Many of our younger players went out on loan to clubs including Dartford, Welling, Bishops Stortford, Ramsgate, Whitstable Town, Leatherhead, Maidstone United and Ashford United.
All came back more developed players as a result of the experience of senior football. It is hoped that we can follow the same pathway this season with the same positive results.