BY MATT WOOSNAM
Crystal Palace have appointed Steve Hetzke as head of academy operations and performance director.
Hetzke fills the hole left by the departure of Steve Higham to Manchester United last summer, and the role is a crucial one in the Eagles’ intentions to establish a category one academy.
The 63-year-old spent most of his playing career in the lower divisions of the football league, becoming Reading’s youngest ever player, before moving to Blackpool. He also spent time with Sunderland and Colchester United before retiring and moving into coaching.
His most recent role was as head of academy recruitment at Swansea City, which he held from November 2016, while he previously worked with the Premier League to oversee academy football as a technical monitor.
Palace have taken control of the site across the road from their main training ground, for use by the academy, signing a long-term lease, but work is not expected to begin until at least next summer when the only remaining tenant, children’s play centre Gambardo, will move out.
The season was a successful one for the Eagles’ academy, with Hetzke in attendance as the U15 side emerged victorious in the Premier League Super Floodlit Cup final, beating Wigan Athletic 3-2 with a stoppage time winner at Walsall’s Banks’s Stadium. Both Chelsea and Arsenal was comprehensively beaten en route to the national final.
Several members of that U15 side received international recognition, including goalkeeper Joe Whitworth who captained England in a group game against Italy during a recent tournament.
The U14 side reached the semi-finals of the Albert Phelan Cup.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka won the club’s player of the year award, centre-back Sam Woods made his maiden Palace appearance in the League Cup defeat by Middlesbrough, and the 20-year-old midfielder Luke Dreher made his debut as a late substitute on the final day of the season.