UNDER-18s coach David Lee says the decision by Wanderers to retain the majority of the team that reached this season’s FA Youth Cup quarter-finals is testament to the impact of the club’s academy.

As revealed in yesterday’s The Bolton News, second-year apprentices Zach Clough, Chris Lester and Luke Woodland have all been handed two-year professional contracts while the quartet of Tom Youngs, Niall Maher, Glenn Matthews and keeper Jan-Ole Sievers have earned a 12-month extension to their current scholarship agreements.

With just one second-year – Dylan Wolstenholme – not offered terms, it is a huge shot-in-the-arm for the staff at the Eddie Davies academy and the work of all the coaches involved, including former players like Lee, Tony Kelly, Nicky Spooner, Jimmy Phillips and Sammy Lee.

And Lee says it shows the Lostock facility, which gained category one status under the Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP) – new youth development system – in December, is bearing fruit, five years since it opened.

Lee said: “To have such a high percentage getting offers to stay is fantastic for the boys and for the academy as a whole.

“A lot of hard work goes in over a number of years to help develop young talent that everyone hopes will one day make the first team at Wanderers.

“Of those lads who have got deals, Zach Clough has been with us since the age of nine and Chris Lester joined at under-14s level.

“Glenn Matthews and Niall Maher have also been at the club since they were 10. A lot of people have played a part and take credit from their progress.

“Not only is it great for those lads but also for others coming through at the academy, who can see the rewards they can get if they work hard.”

It may come as little surprise so many of this year’s crop are staying on at Wanderers after a hugely successful campaign for the U18s.

They reached the quarter finals of the FA Youth Cup, stunning Premier League Tottenham 8-4 at White Hart Lane before an extra-time exit at Nottingham Forest.

They also sailed through the first half of the Premier League U18s league with just one defeat to qualify for the Elite Phase post-Christmas. Last weekend they beat Southampton 1-0 to add to recent away wins against Crystal Palace and Chelsea.

It is impressive form that has seen many move up to the Under-21 development squad and also put them on first-team boss Dougie Freedman’s radar.

And Lee says that Freedman’s willingness to blood young talent, like he did with success at previous club Crystal Palace, is also something that can further bridge the gap from youth to senior football.

He added: “The manager has shown he is true to his word about giving youth a chance with these deals.

“They are tough decisions to make each year – who to give deals to – but he has already had people like Zach and Chris training with the first-team this year.

“The four with extended scholarships have also been dangled a carrot to impress and it is a real incentive that they could also join the professional ranks if they impress.

“The fact academy graduates like Josh Vela and Joe Riley have gone on to play for the first team shows the opportunities are there under the manager and that the academy has helped bridge a gap that used to be there.

“Hopefully, it continues and we see even more getting into the first team. That would be fantastic.”