Wigan Athletic Academy 'slowly getting back to where we were'

Gregor RiochGregor Rioch
Gregor Rioch
Wigan Athletic have 'huge plans to improve the academy programme' in 2022, to further boost the production line and safeguard the club's future.

So says Gregor Rioch, Academy chief, and the man overseeing the structure that literally kept the club going last year.

"We have huge plans in the New Year to improve the academy programme," he said.

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"Personally, I want to keep learning and continue to set high standards and demands of all the staff and integrate our new staff into our Academy and football family.

"Recruitment is a huge part of what we do and our Head of Academy Recruitment Kenny Williams has been planning a strategy to improve recruitment of players of all ages.

"Player care is really important to us too and we will continue to work with our players and parents.

"Our aim is to continue links with all departments at the football club and the Community Trust to keep stretching the players out of their comfort zone while in safe environments.

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"Players such as Scott Smith have really embraced this and in Scott’s case, he has become one of the finest young men you can ever wish to meet."

While disappointed to lose prize assets Joe Gelhardt, Jensen Weir and Alfie Devine in 2020, and Kyle Joseph and Sean McGurk in 2021, Rioch says it's only fuelled determination to 'go again' - and unearth the next future superstar.

"From an Academy perspective, 2021 has been a special year and hugely rewarding for the Academy staff because all the hard work that has gone on over the years has become fully worthwhile," he added.

"Our Academy graduates made 224 appearances for the first team over 51 games in the 2020/21 campaign.

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"This season, we’ve seen the debuts of seven academy graduates and had over 75 appearances from 14 players.

"The Academy players have handled themselves well in the first-team environment and have brought a lot of pride to not just our Academy staff but our supporters too.

"They give real inspiration and motivation to our other young prospects and instill the belief that they can be next.

"As the Academy Manager, I was also extremely delighted to see Callum Lang and Thelo Aasgaard commit their long-term futures to Wigan Athletic.

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"Over the last 18 months, we've had young players depart sooner than we would have liked due to circumstances out of our control.

"So it's a great statement of intent to tie down two of the best young talents the Academy has produced.

"We are delighted to have recruited a number of new members of staff across each department at the Academy since the start of the season and it's a very exciting time for us.

"We've had real stability in the staff for a good decade and now we've got some excellent new additions who have come in with energy and given us a fresh impetus at Stadium Way.

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"I'm really looking forward to seeing what the future holds at the Academy and I feel like we are slowly getting back to where we were prior to administration."

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