Blackburn Rovers have announced a new leadership team in their Academy with Stuart Jones and Paul Gray assuming new titles.

Jones has been Rovers' Head of Academy since 2017 and was working with the club for six years before that too. He will now take the role of Head of Academy, Youth Transition & Player Pathway.

This change is designed for Jones to specifically focus on players aged 17-21 and how Academy hopefuls transition into the first team.

Jones will be responsible for the pathway of each young player, whether that be loans away from the club or sketching a clear route into John Eustace's first-team picture.


“The size of the programme for Category One Academies brings its challenges for one individual to oversee the whole system, so it was decided that I would take up this new role with a real focus on the 17-21s age group in the Professional Development Phase (PDP) and Paul Gray would come in to look after the 9-16s," he explained.

“From a development perspective, we’ve identified that loan moves are really important for young players, so we’ll be looking to develop a loan strategy and really drive that process to ensure that our young players get out to develop in senior football.

“I’ll then be managing those players whilst they’re out on loan, in terms of keeping in contact with them, going to watch them in games, reporting back and having a close relationship with the clubs, as well as managing the high-potential players within the top end of the Youth Development Phase (YDP) and across the 17-21 age group.

“I think it was really important from my perspective to bridge that gap for the young players. We currently do a lot of work with the young players within the first team and what was important for me was bridging the gap for the Under-21s, and the Under-18s to a point, transitioning into first team environment and supporting that development and pathway, in regular consultation and collaboration with the first team staff.

“Being part of the senior leadership team along with the new staff that have recently come into the building will hopefully bring it all together.”

Gray was previously Head of Academy Football Operations, a role he held for three years, and will now have the title of Academy Manager. The focus for him will be the younger age groups within the youth set-up.

 “It’s a brilliant opportunity for me. I’ve been involved in coaching young players for over 20 years now, nearly 15 of those have been in professional football.

“Whilst I love being on the grass coaching the players, I realised a few years ago that eventually, the route I wanted to take was more of a leadership and management route, so I’ve invested my time in Premier League and FA courses.

"I’ve had some great Academy managers to learn from over the years and I’ve done lots of CPD (Continuing Professional Development) to try and prepare myself for that next step on my journey.

“Over the past 12 months, I’ve been working closer with Stuart, helping him with some of the day-to-day running of the Academy. 

"It’s something that I’ve been working towards for a long time now and I’ve always strived to keep progressing in my career, so what an exciting opportunity it is to do that at a Category One club like Blackburn Rovers – a club that is so determined to put young players in the first team and which has a fantastic reputation for helping to develop young people and young players.”