WANDERERS have confirmed they will no longer be running an Under-23s team from the end of this season.

The development squad, currently coached by former player David Lee, won the Professional Development League title in 2018.

But the club intent to discontinue that level of football as part of a step down from a category two to a category three academy.

It is not yet known what this will mean for Lee, head of academy Jimmy Phillips or other coaching staff within the Lostock set-up. The club has not commented on individual cases but say there will be a process to which they will adhere.

It is understood, however, that newly installed head of football operations Tobias Phoenix has been tasked with undertaking what has been termed a ‘review of the football department’.

Wanderers have also announced their intention to fast-track players at Under-15s and 16s level with a new coaching plan to be introduced from the summer.

The club stepped down from a category one academy in the summer of 2015 – a change which was forecast at the time to save around £1million a year. But the move to a category three set-up is not thought to be a cost-cutting measure.

Other category three academies include Portsmouth, Wimbledon, Plymouth, Walsall, Southend, Luton, Bradford City, MK Dons, Gillingham, Swindon Town, Exeter City, Northampton Town, Preston North End, Oldham, Rochdale and Shrewsbury Town.

Wanderers released an official statement this afternoon confirming changes to the youth set-up they hope will be a positive step.

“Bolton Wanderers Football Club is pleased to announce an exciting transformation of our academy, development, and community football programmes which will build on the existing foundations and improve the football provision currently being delivered.

“The changes are a key component in our commitment to the rebuilding of this great club which will directly support the route to the first team for our most talented young players.

“The club is committed to implementing procedures to secure, coach, and develop the best talent in our academy in the age groups of nine to 18 whilst, at the same time, ensuring our development centres and community football programmes take Bolton Wanderers to the heart of the community.

“We aim to completely rejuvenate our presence and identity in Bolton and the surrounding areas and ensure there is real desire and pride in wanting to belong to Bolton Wanderers. This is a key element in our strategy of aligning all our football interests to support Bolton Wanderers back on its way to top-flight football.

“We will be re-categorising our academy from category two to category three, whilst still operating fully within the rules, regulations, guidelines, and best practices of the EFL academy structure. The academy will continue with teams in the age categories of Under-nine to under-18 with an emphasis focussed on high quality coaching and development.

“In addition, the academy is planning to introduce an exciting new hybrid programme next season for the under-15 and under-16 age groups, which will allow these players more training time to help fast-track their development. At the end of the current season we shall discontinue with our Under-23s.

“As part of an integrated football plan we will be bringing the development centres and community football, which are currently operated by Bolton Wanderers Community Trust, under the same structure to enhance the club’s philosophy in the wider Bolton Community.

“This is a long-term commitment to developing quality and skill for the future of our club. The responsibility for implementing change for the future success of the club’s football plan will fall under the remit of newly formed Football Operations, headed up by Tobias Phoenix.”