Having enjoyed unprecedented success at academy level this season, Palace’s Academy Director Gary Issott has piled praise on the organisation’s backroom staff who have been working tirelessly to help produce future stars for the Eagles.
Palace have seen their under-23 and under-18 teams win their respective leagues this season, while the under-15s reached the final of the Premier League Floodlit Cup where they were beaten by Chelsea.
As well as this, a host of development players have featured for or been on the bench for Roy Hodgson’s first-team this term, as Issott is delighted that the pathway throughout the academy system is thriving.
“There’s been a lot of hard work from the staff, and the team managers deserve a lot of credit,” he said. “But there are also the sports scientists who make the players fitter and stronger, the medics that keep them on the pitch and the scouts that bring them into the club.
“We’ve got 40 scouts around London trawling trying to find players from nine to 16, so it is one of the most important components of the academy. They’ve helped build those sides to the level where they’re able to go and win leagues.”
That has been the case for Richard Shaw’s development side and Paddy McCarthy’s under-18s who collected their silverware in front of a packed Selhurst Park on Sunday, and Issott believes those achievements shouldn’t be underestimated, even if both teams couldn’t quite go all the way and become national champions via the play-offs.
“Winning any league is very tough, so Richard and Dave [Reddington] deserve a lot of credit, as do the players,” he added. “There’s nothing like a season of football that tests you physically and mentally as there are so many different challenges.
“Cups are great, but the real test is the league campaign. In cup ties, things can go your way or there can be a refereeing decision or a mistake. In the play-offs, the under-23s and the under-18s just didn’t quite perform to the levels that we had done in previous games, but that happens.”
After seeing plenty of success at academy level, Issott is now keen to ensure that continues for many more years to come. Palace continue to strive towards earning Category 1 academy status, allowing them to play in the elite league competitions at all age ranges, and helping the club attract better young prospects while allowing them to improve facilities to help them develop.
Speaking about the behind-the-scenes work going into putting that plan into action, he said: “The owners have been fantastic and every time we’ve asked for something, they’ve given it to us. There’s some major investment potentially going to come into the academy so we can only thank the owners for the investment they’ve put in year-on-year trying to improve the whole set-up.
“It’s difficult in London to get land, so what differentiates us from other Category 1 academies is an ability to put a dome and an astroturf pitch on our facility at the moment. We are working on that, and I’m sure in the not-so-distant future we could be in a position to achieve it.”
Issott spoke to Palace TV about a wide range of issues at academy level, including Levi Lumeka and Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s first-team progression, the importance of having ex-Eagles players as coaches, and the progression of academy products plying their trade in the lower leagues at the moment.
To see the interview in full, just hit play below: