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Jon Waldron: My views on the U's
Colchester United’s failure to gain Category Two status is undoubtedly a setback.
The U’s have placed considerable emphasis and investment on becoming an elite academy.
Their coaches and staff have worked extremely hard to try and meet the necessary criteria, so missing out on acquiring the status will have come as a big disappointment.
But while the decision is frustrating in the U’s attempts to produce talented young players capable of eventually playing for their first team, it need not be a body blow.
This was the club’s first attempt to secure elite academy status, as part of the Elite Player Performance Programme introduced last summer and their Florence Park training complex in Tiptree is the ideal location for young players to develop their game.
The fact that Colchester’s under-21 sides have been denied the chance to play in a structured format is not ideal.
They benefited hugely from playing against the likes of Cardiff City and QPR in last season’s Professional Development League.
But they now have the facilities, philosophy and structure in place to flourish and become an elite academy in the coming years.
The principles do not change and while it would have admittedly been hugely beneficial for Colchester’s best fledgling players to be pitting their wits against some of the most talented youngsters in the country, there is always a silver lining.
As U’s development coach Richard Hall commented, not playing in a structured league format will at least give the U’s under-21 side the freedom to arrange matches as much as they wish.
They will not be restricted by the limits stipulated by the league format, which determine that a specific number of players have to be of a certain age.
It will allow the U’s to pick players of any age and will give first-team boss Joe Dunne more opportunity to field senior players to help their match fitness, which has been lacking in the absence of a reserve-team format.
Colchester’s failure to gain Category Two status is a disappointment – but it need not be a disaster.
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