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Around the Academy:

The famous Manchester United Youth side from 1991
Which of these Manchester United youth players went on to hit the big time?

A club invites you to join its Academy. What happens now?

We asked Paul Holder, assistant Academy director at Crystal Palace, to talk us through the various stages.

What exactly is an Academy?
Academies are special training schemes set up by clubs to help them develop young players.

All Premiership clubs have Academies.

Other League clubs run either Academies or Centres of Excellence, which are run along the same lines.

Many non-league clubs also run their own development schemes or community projects.

Do I have to be a certain age to attend an Academy?
A player must be at least nine years of age to join an Academy.

But many clubs - such as Arsenal - have development groups which cater for even younger players.

Does it matter where I live?
Yes. This is important.

Strict new rules have been brought in to prevent clubs signing young players who live outside their catchment area.

Under 12's must live within an hour's travelling distance from the club, or 90 minutes for players aged 13-16.

Academy teams take part in a tournament
You'll sign schoolboy forms to start off with

What happens once a club agrees to take me on?
Between the ages of 9 and 16 you will be asked to sign schoolboy forms.

These will be renewed every year or two years, if the club is happy for you to continue.

Once you're 16, the club will then decide whether it wants you to stay on and join its Youth Training Scheme.

Places are limited though. For example, Crystal Palace take on around six trainees every year at this stage.

Some clubs take on more, some less.

If you are one of the lucky ones, you will be offered a scholarship.

This can last up to three years during which time you should progress from the Academy's Youth team to the Reserves.

Premiership clubs also have Under-21 teams to bridge the gap between the reserve team and the first team.

Technically, you can sign a professional contract at 17. But Wayne Rooney is the exception rather than the rule.

Most players will have to wait until they are 19 before finding out whether they have a future at the club.

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How will I get noticed?
What are clubs looking for?
Moving up the ladder
What's life like at an Academy
What if I'm rejected?

Open Quote
Professional football will not fall into your lap, you will have to work at it. Raw talant isn't enough
Close Quote
Paul Holder
Assistant Academy director, Crystal Palace

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