TSB can reveal that Leeds United’s academy manager Chris Sulley has left the club, only a year after starting his new role at Thorp Arch.
Sulley was appointed by the club early last year after a protracted search for a new academy boss. He started work on 1st March 2011, but TSB understands that his contract was not renewed after an initial 12 month period was completed, although this has not yet been confirmed by Leeds United.
TSB was contacted anonymously about the matter and so sought verification from the club. Leeds United confirmed to TSB that Sulley has departed and that it expects to make a formal announcement some time after the Easter break.
Chris Sulley’s departure comes at a crucial time for the club’s academy. The Thorp Arch facility is months away from its assessment to see where it will fit into the new Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP) rules. Under the EPPP system academies will be classified in a new four-tier system, with the top ranking academies able to cherry pick the very best youngsters from around the country. The new system dispenses with the old ’90-minute’ rule, which meant clubs could only recruit youngsters who lived within an hour-and-a-half’s drive and now gives the top-ranked academies the green light to hoover up the best talent, with the lower-ranked academies expected to fight over the best of the rest. Compensation fees for clubs who lose their academy players to other clubs will also be drastically reduced.
It is predicted that United’s Thorp Arch academy will fall into the second category under EPPP, which is good news for the club in terms of continuing to attract top quality youngsters through its doors, even if the Premier League clubs with category one academies are able to have their pick of the region’s youngsters.
Established according to Howard Wilkinson’s blueprint, the Thorp Arch academy has in recent times provided the club with a rich seam to mine. As well as providing first-teamers such as Tom Lees, Thorp Arch has proved to be a fantastic revenue stream for the club, with millions of pounds gained in compensation from other clubs for its players, not to mention academy graduates Jonny Howson and Fabian Delph having netted the club millions in transfer fees after they were sold on to Premier League clubs.
With this important transitional phase for the academy system nearly underway, the club will doubtlessly be eager to get the right person in to replace Sulley. As always, we will watch developments with great interest.