The Arsenal Academy is now in its 11th season, having been one of the first tier of English clubs to gain academy status in 1998.

During its existence the Academy has consistently produced footballers ready for first-team action with both Arsenal and other professional football clubs.

The Academy Director is legendary midfielder Liam Brady, who is ably assisted by David Court, also a former Gunners star. Both are responsible for the development of all the boys registered with the Academy between the ages of nine and 21.

At the end of season 2003/04, the Under-17s and Under-19s were disbanded by the FA to form one competitive level for Club Academies, the Under-18s. The Arsenal Under-18s are based at the Training Centre with the first-team squad and are coached by former Arsenal centre-half Steve Bould.

The junior levels of the Academy set-up - from Under-16s down to Under-nines - are based at Hale End Training Centre, another state-of-the-art Arsenal facility, under the guidance of Roy Massey.

The Under-18s finished in the top half of the table last season, a worthy achievement when you consider that Bould regularly fields very young teams in order to rest those older, eligible players who may have been playing reserve or first-team football.

Results are certainly not the 'be all and end all' for the Under-18s with the Club's primary concern at this age being player development. The most prominent example of a player progressing through the current system is Ashley Cole, who established himself as first choice left-back for both club and country before his move to Chelsea.

A number of former Academy youngsters have made their mark in the Carling Cup, taking Arsenal to three successive Semi-Finals and a Final appearance in 2007.

Goalkeeper Stuart Taylor, midfielders Jermaine Pennant, David Bentley, Steven Sidwell and defender Justin Hoyte are all Academy graduates who have earned England Under-21 caps, while Academy product Jeremie Aliadiere represented France Under- 21s. Taylor and Aliadiere also won League Championship medals, in 2002 and 2004 respectively.

With Academy players regularly dominating the Arsenal reserve team line-ups and a steady progression of players being blooded in the senior side, the Academy production line looks set to continue and produce players to grace Emirates Stadium for many years to come.

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10 Mar 2008