BLACKBURN Rovers remain committed to continuing as a Category One Academy, despite the club’s relegation to League One.

Head of Academy Eric Kinder believes Rovers’ Academy remains as important now as it was when they were crowned Premier League champions 22 years ago.

Kinder says the club’s owners have stated their intention for Rovers to remain in the highest bracket having retained its status as Category One last summer.

Wolves continued as a Category One Academy during their title-winning season in League One in 2013/14 and Rovers’ intention is to do exactly that after the Under-18s and Under-23s once again enjoyed promising seasons.

“It’s not about where your first-team is, it’s how you run your Academy and you run it to the level that Category One states,” Kinder said.

“I don’t think the concern is ever where your first-team is.

“The one thing I will say is there’s not many League One or League Two clubs can subsidise the minimum spend (of around £2.5m) to run a Category One club so we have to be thankful for that and the owners have said we must remain that.

“We’re proud to be a Category One club. We’ve worked ever so hard to achieve it.

“We achieved it before I got this job and we maintained it 18 months ago which was a massive well done to all the staff to retain it. If you look at the teams we’re competing against it’s a terrific achievement.

“We went through the action points that we got after our last audit, we achieved them, and will be Category One until that next audit comes around in two years’ time.”

Rovers have offered professional contracts to four second year scholars – Tyler Magloire, Joe Grayson, Charley Doyle and Stefan Mols – after Billy Barr’s Under-18s reached the Elite group play-off stage.

The quartet, along with Joe Rankin-Costello who has already penned his first professional deal, were regulars for Damien Johnson’s Under-23s side who just missed out on a play-off spot in Premier League 2 Division Two.

Ryan Nyambe, Scott Wharton and Willem Tomlinson all progressed from the Academy ranks to make their first-team debuts last season, while Lewis Travis, who was included in several matchday squads, is considering a contract offer from the club.

Rovers face increasing competition from Premier League clubs to keep hold of their top Academy talent. But Kinder says the pathway, and opportunities, they can offer to prospective young players means there can still be a bright future despite relegation.

He added: “The Academy has always been important. Whether we were Premier League champions or in League One, the Academy has to flourish.

“It might be harder to recruit players now, simply because of where the first-team is, which is a shame, but we have a terrific reputation.

“We have a pathway here that we can get them through. We’re coming under increasing pressure for our younger players because they think our players are easy picking because the first-team is in League One.

“But we’re a Category One club, the same as them, and where they might be able to offer money and long-term contracts we can offer a pathway right the way through to the first-team.

“Can we compete with Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea? In the EPPP (Elite Player Performance Plan) world probably not because for me you are judged on how many dressing rooms you have got, how many buildings you have got, and how good your indoor centre is.

“On the pitch, if you look at our results, then we are competing against the best teams in the country.”