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It’s been known for some weeks that our academy was not going to be able continue as a Category 1 Academy within EPPP, and it was news that was confirmed by the club yesterday.

The demotion after two years, for whatever reason, is a massive blow having seen us move up from Cat 3 to Cat 1 between 2017 and 2020, albeit a provisional licence awarded two years ago pending an onsite audit.

Seeing the games at the higher level, it has to be said that the standard is much, much higher. Whilst the big clubs in the Premier League have their teams in Division 1 of Premier League 2, we’ve still been able to play against a number of other Premier League clubs and in both our seasons have come close to reaching the end of season play-offs.

At under-18 level, it is regional and that’s seen us play league games, home and away, against the four big north west clubs. Last season we had some remarkable results. We took four points from Manchester United, with a Dane McCullough goal giving us a 1-0 away win against them. We beat Everton, picked up four points against Blackburn who were right up there for much of the season. Manchester City were hammering teams but beat us twice by just one goal and we started the season with a remarkable 8-3 win against Newcastle, this despite the team having hardly trained due to Covid issues.

We have been denied that for the forthcoming season as we now drop back to the Professional Development League (Cat 2). These leagues are split north and south and in both we will play the north teams home and away while the fixtures against the south teams will be home or away, this giving both teams 28 league fixtures.

Those fixtures have now been released and the under-23s will kick off their season a week next Monday with a home game against Charlton which will kick off at 2 p.m. at the County Ground at Leyland (pictured). All of our home games this season will be played there, some in the afternoon with some evening kicks offs.

The under-18s season gets underway on the following Saturday, 13th August, and they too start at home with Bristol City the visitors to Gawthorpe.

The fixtures for both teams can be found in U23/U218 Stats on the top menu.

Note: The Professional Development League from the start of the 2022/23 season is an under-21 competition with each team permitted five overage outfield players and a goalkeeper.

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