Sunderland's official website has announced that the club's academy has had its EPPP category one status confirmed.
The news is not unexpected by any means, but is certainly welcome. Since plans for the new system were approved by Premier League and Football League clubs last season, academies have been independently assessed and graded. In achieving the top category one status, the club will now be considered one of the elite in terms of the development of young players in this country.
Sunderland's academy manager Ged McNamee told SAFC.com:
The awarding of Category One status is testament to the professionalism, hard work, dedication and commitment of everyone involved in the academy operation at Sunderland.
This cements our reputation for youth development and will hopefully enhance our ability to attract the best calibre of young players to the club.
Sunderland's commitment to player development has been obvious for some time, and work recently started on building a new indoor training barn at the academy as well as a flood-lit pitch. Both had been required for Category One status, but it is important to note that an indoor barn was part of the original plans for the site before it ran into opposition from local residents.
The importance to the club of this announcement was something that Chief Executive Margaret Byrne was eager to highlight.
We are thrilled and delighted that our Academy has been recognised among the very best in the country.
Developing home grown talent is a key principle in our club strategy and youth development will always remain one of our core principles.
In recent years we have seen our Academy set up go from strength to strength, producing some wonderful young talent such as Jordan Henderson and Jack Colback. Ged and his team have done a remarkable job and long may that continue.
Sunderland fans should be immensely proud of the Academy today.
It has become a genuine annoyance to many of us that the Jordan Henderson money was largely squandered by Steve Bruce last season, but his sale certainly highlights a real benefit of a strong academy.
What we all really want to see, however, is quality young homegrown players transitioned into the first team squad. Jack Colback has followed in Henderson's footprints, and Louis Laing, John Egan, and Ryan Noble have also impressed in pre-season so far, and the hope will be that this will ensure they are remembered as simply the first batch of Premier League players the Sunderland academy produces, not the first or best.