Cardiff City: Bluebirds consider academy upgrade

Swansea City defender Ben Cabango
Highly-rated Swansea defender Ben Cabango was born and raised in Cardiff but opted for Swansea's youth academy

Cardiff City are exploring the possibility of upgrading their academy to category one status.

The Championship side currently operate a category two academy, one rung down from highest level possible as enjoyed by leading Premier League academies.

Upgrading to the top level could cost around £3m a year but would increase their ability to recruit young players from a wider catchment area.

"It takes a lot of planning and a lot of investment," boss Neil Harris said.

"That becomes a board decision," he continued. "Would I support that? Yeah of course. It gives you the avenue to recruit players from a greater distance and the programme becomes bigger.

"It's a huge investment. Ultimately what's best for our club to get players in the academy in the first team? But you have to balance off the investment, have you got the right structure within the club? The right amount of coaches? The right facilities to train to have bigger groups and more staff?

"It's not just a simple decision. It does take time. We are in the process with the board and the academy to make decisions like that. But getting the coaching set-up correct, as we have, is a huge step forward for us."

Cardiff's arch rivals Swansea have demonstrated how beneficial a category one academy can be, having held that status since 2016.

The Swans sold former development squad players Daniel James and Oli McBurnie to Manchester United and Sheffield United respectively for a combined £35m last year.

This season, the latest player to break into Swansea's first team has been centre-back Ben Cabango, who came through the club's academy despite being born and bred in Cardiff.

The Bluebirds are eager to avoid allowing more players to slip through the net, and upgrading their academy status could be a step in the right direction.

Cardiff are in the midst of an overhaul in their youth set-up, having appointed former Wales striker Steve Morison as head coach of their under-23 side on Monday.

Morison played under Harris at Millwall, and the Bluebirds boss is looking forward to working with him once again.

"I'm really pleased. Steve has got great leadership," said Harris.

"He was my club captain at Millwall and he's been qualified with his A Licence (coaching badge) and doing his Pro Licence for a period now.

"He has always wanted to coach and he's someone I know, and he knows what I want how I want to work, and he knows my thought process in terms of bringing young players through. He also knows I'll only play the young players when they are ready.

"We want to give a pathway. We want to show a club philosophy that I believe in, that young players if they're good enough get the opportunity to come through.

"It should excite the fans. They ultimately want to see Cardiff City fans playing in the first team. They want to see homegrown players.

"Everybody wants to see them come through. We aren't going to see four or five of them in the first team next season but, in two or three years' time, we might get to that scenario but that's got to be the aim."