Clegg: Academy Amongst Proudest Achievements at Town
Wednesday, 6th Feb 2013 06:00
Departing chief executive Simon Clegg cites the work which has taken place at the academy over the last year amongst his proudest achievements during his time at Town. He revealed that the Blues’ youth set-up passed its recent audit and has been confirmed as a Category Two academy.
The Premier League's Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP) led to a reorganisation of the academy system prior to this season, something that Clegg has spent much of the last year working on.
He says he recently heard the news that the academy had passed the independent audit it underwent in November: “It’s been recommended to the FA's Professional Game Board that we should be given Category Two status.
“Bryan Klug and I were down in London meeting with the auditors the week before last. The recommendation is that we should be given Category Two status."
Clegg faced criticism for not opting for the more costly Category One, but believes Category Two was the right choice for the Blues and that it was a significant achievement to make the improvements required to make that grade.
He said: “People shouldn’t underestimate the workload that went into that. It is typical of football fans, they read a snippet and working on the basis that we’ve got a fantastic academy, say we must go Category One. That was the wrong decision for the football club. I stood up and I was very vocal about it.
“I hope over the last four years I have been accessible and I’ve not shied away from answering difficult questions when there have been difficult questions, either to fans or the media.
“The academy and what’s been achieved, and particularly bringing Bryan Klug back, I take some pride from that.”
In terms of the first team, there have also been days to remember, if perhaps fewer than he would have expected when he took over from Derek Bowden in April 2009: “There have been some really good upsides, beating Arsenal 1-0 here, beating West Ham 5-1 and indeed beating Middlesbrough 4-0 on Saturday. There have been some good upsides, but perhaps not as many good times as I had hoped for.”
Off the field, he believes he has made his mark on the club: “I take some pride from the fact that it was my idea to rename the Sir Bobby Robson Stand and the Sir Alf Ramsey Stand.
“I take pride that we’ve brought in the East of England Co-op as a stand sponsor here.
"I think we’ve been able to protect the season ticket prices in the main over the last five years. I’ve made it very clear that my priority would be to protect the season ticket holders as much as I could.
“We’ve brought on the IT side, we’ve brought in direct debits spread over 12 months on an interest-free basis. We’ve brought in online matchday ticket sales with people having the ability to print tickets at home. I think there have been a number of initiatives that I’m quite proud of.
“On my head be it, but, having sat in the lower North Stand on one occasion, I took a somewhat blind approach to allow standing to go on there, which was not without its challenges from some of my colleagues here. But I was prepared to stand up and do that.
“We tried to do some stuff to help create atmosphere here, whether that’s stuff with the military that we’ve had here, whether it’s the Olympic torchbearers being paraded around the pitch, whether it’s Commonwealth or Olympic medallists in the directors’ box, zorb ball racing or the cheerleaders, I have tried to do things.
“I’ve tried to engage with supporters’ forums and even last Saturday, although obviously I couldn’t tell them anything about this week, I spent 45 minutes with the supporters’ forum here before the home game.
“I’ve tried to attend as many branch meetings as possible, although I’m disappointed that I’ve not got out to the Supporters Clubs in Barbados and Australia."
He says Town will always have a place in his heart: “It’s a great club, it’s been a huge privilege to be at the helm for four years and I’ll leave a really good team in place and I’ll continue to follow Town and support Town for the rest of my life. It’s been a very important part of my life for the last four years.”
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