Exclusive: QPR youth set-up to relocate as club regains academy status
Gallen delighted as Premier League confirm Rs youngsters will battle the best next season
QPR youth development manager Steve Gallen hailed a ‘huge step forward’ for the club after the Premier League confirmed they will be granted category two academy status next season.
Gallen’s youth set-up will complete their move from Harlington to the Park Club in Acton this month, after being told that their new site matches the Premier League’s criteria.
Chairman Tony Fernandes and chief executive Phil Beard are set to invest an estimated �250,000 on the youth facilities at the 27-acre site, having previously made upgrading QPR’s centre of excellence a top priority.
The club have signed a one-year contract, with the move allowing Gallen’s under-nines to under-14s to play the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham on a regular basis next season, while Rangers will be able to field an under-21 side for the first time.
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“It is a huge step forward for us, absolutely,” Gallen told London24.com. “It’s a relief, a weight off my shoulders. My under-nines, 10s, 11s and 12s now get to play the teams they should be playing.
“We hope that if we get into the new training ground at Warren Farm within the next two years we will be looked at as a category one academy. It’s a commitment by the club, the chairman has simply told me to ‘go ahead and do it’. I’m really pleased.”
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QPR’s new facility was due to be audited this month, but the Premier League have delayed that move until either September or October, when the club will have to pass if they are to remain a category two academy the following season.
That will see their new set-up assessed in terns of their productivity rates, training facilities, coaching, education and welfare provisions.
The move represents a pivotal moment in QPR’s future, taking place as the Premier League’s Elite Player Performance Plan [EPPP] comes into full effect, with the current academy system scrapped in favour of a new four-tier structure.
The scheme, which was voted through by the Premier League and Football League in October, is designed to radically improve the standard of young players in the country and will guarantee funding for youth football over the next four years.
Gallen was in Switzerland this week where his under-19 side was taking part in the prestigious Bellinzona tournament, playing the likes of Basle and Argentinian side Boca Juniors.
Joining the squad were emerging first-team prospects Michael Doughty, Michael Harriman, Mo Shariff and teenage striker Tom Hitchcock, who signed a new deal with the club last week.
Rangers missed out on the semi-finals by a point, drawing 0-0 with Basle and losing 2-1 to Boca Juniors, but Gallen believes such high-quality competition is the ideal preparation for next season.
“One of the reasons we came here is because I am trying to prepare the players for this kind of level of football,” added Gallen. “Basle are a Champions League team.
“We’re playing the likes of Leyton Orient and Crawley, and now I’m bringing the lads over here and we’re on the same pitch as Boca Juniors, the biggest club in Argentina.
“AC Milan, Inter Milan, Manchester United have all won the tournament. Boca Juniors won it last year, so we’re up against some of the best clubs in the world.”
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