Elliott Dickman

Dickman assesses EPPP changes

by Stuart Vose

Head of coaching on backroom changes.

Elliott Dickman says Sunderland have made significant changes behind the scenes as the club adapts to the new Elite Player Performance Plan regulations.

The biggest shake-up in youth football development in over a decade, EPPP is a result of consultation between the Premier League and its clubs, representatives of the Football League, the Football Association and other key stakeholders designed to take youth development to the next level.

EPPP has six fundamental principles, including creating more time for players to play and be coached as well as improving coaching provision, which has seen the Academy move to bolster its highly qualified and experienced coaching staff.

Head of Coaching Dickman said: "There have been a number of changes, but the philosophy is still there in how we want to develop players and how we coach.

"In terms of the EPPP regulations, the boys have more hours so we get more contact with them on the training field.

"Staff-wise we've had an increase, including people like Craig Liddle who has got fantastic experience from being a manager and running everything at Darlington for the last three or four years.

"Lewis Dickman also joins us, while Mark Atkinson's role has been changed from scouting to head of the Foundation phase, which is basically five to 11-year-olds. Stuart Brightwell has also come in as our skills coach.

"So there are new members of staff in there who have to learn, cope and deal with how Ged McNamee, myself and the senior staff want things done."

Before the introduction of EPPP, rules dictated that clubs could only recruit players under the age of 16 who lived no more than 90 minutes travelling time from their home cities but Category One clubs will be permitted to recruit nationally in the 12-16 age groups.

Although this restriction gives clubs more room to manoeuvre when scouting talented players, Liddle insists the Academy will only bring in youngsters who will fit in with the club's philosophy of developing individuals as well as footballers.

Dickman added: "[Relaxing the 90-minute rule] does help us due to the fact that half our radius was in the sea, so we've got a better spectrum to go and try to find players.

"For the first year, from under-14s we can go nationwide, and then after a year it goes down to under-12s if we want to do that.

"We've had a new member of staff come in [on the recruitment side], Greg Batten, who will work alongside John Tweedy and Wayne Walls.

"I'm sure the scouting team, working with the first-team coaching side, will be looking at under-16, under-18 and under-21 games with a view to bringing players in.

"But whether those players are what we're looking for is not always the case."