Blackpool’s lack of players for the coming season is causing alarm among supporters but one staff member insists the club’s long-term future has never looked brighter.
Ciaran Donnelly is in charge of Pool’s youth system and looks forward to a time when summer player shortages at Bloomfield Road will become a thing of the past as the club produces an annual crop of talent for the senior squad
Pool have now signed up for the Premier League’s Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP), which assesses clubs to ensure the quality of their academies, and the Seasiders are celebrating a category three rating, though they have plans to improve on this.
Donnelly,who came through the club’s youth set-up himself 15 years ago, told The Gazette: “We are delighted to have made that standard but the real aim is to move to category two.
“There’s a plan in place for us to get there but it’s going to take a lot of hard work and patience from everyone at the club. The new training complex the chairman is planning will provide us with the facilities needed to help us make the step.
“He has consulted us on the planning and it will give us everything we need to allow us to operate as an academy.
“We currently have 140 players contracted to us from the ages of six through to 18.
“When we started this work, the centre of excellence had only two full-time members of staff – now we have eight. We’ve spent the last few years building foundations for the club’s future and we’ve come a really long way.”
Since Donnelly took over the signs have been encouraging, Richard Kyle’s U18s winning their league last season.
Although star player Harrison McGahey, who played three times for the club’s first team last season, could be on his way to Sheffield United despite being offered a new deal at Bloomfield Road.
Donnelly added: “This is a long-term project here at Blackpool. The next level will mean a huge step up to around 18 full-time staff and major investment from the club.
“The idea of all this is to make Blackpool FC sustainable in the future. Any club can get lucky and bring one or two decent players through their system, but we want to build a set-up which will regularly produce our own players.
“All a club needs is one top-class player to come through and that will more than pay for the investment made, so it’s well worth it.
“When I came through the system in Blackpool , the first thing players wanted to do was move on to a bigger club – I went to Blackburn myself.
“Now we want to provide a system which will keep these players and allow the club to grow. We are in good shape and moving in the right direction but have a long way to go.
“This isn’t a short-term commitment or a short-term fix. It will require patience in the short-term, which means the club can produce its own talent year after year in the long-term.”