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Last summer, along with Crystal Palace and Leeds United, our academy was granted Category 1 status, but we won’t be the new comers next season with both Birmingham City and Nottingham Forest moving up from Category 2.

In the season just finished, they have finished second and third in the Professional Development League North, a league won by Sheffield United. At under-18 level, Birmingham were again in second place, this time behind Wigan, but Forest were bottom of the league.

Both clubs, as did we a year ago, see it as a big achievement to reach this level and Mike Dodds, head of academy at Birmingham, said: “It’s an extremely proud day for the football club and our academy programme. Being recognised as a Category 1 academy is the culmination of many years of hard work by so many people and I’m delighted for everyone associated with the club.

It’s similar at Forest where Gary Brazil, director of football development, said: “I am thrilled we have achieved Category 1 status for next season. The current and future investments in facilities by Mr Marinakis will take us to another level.

“It is a fantastic opportunity for the club and it will be really exciting for the staff and players to challenge themselves at the elite end of academy football. The benefits include playing better quality teams in the games programme and access to youth grant funding. It will also help us to keep providing elite talent for our first team and ensure we provide opportunities for players in and around Nottinghamshire to become professional footballers.”

Brazil added: “We have established a strong recruitment staff and this will be another string to the bow of (former Claret) Chris Brass and his team to continue to attract and retain the very best talent.”

In our first season as a Category 1 club, we ended the season in seventh place in Premier League 2 (under-23s) and ninth in U18 Premier League.

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