YORK City's under-18 side will travel to Crewe on Wednesday night hoping to progress to the third round of the FA Youth Cup.

But the biggest victory for the Minstermites has arguably taken place off the pitch with the news that the club have passed an audit to preserve their status as a category three academy.

It has emerged that the existence of junior football at Bootham Crescent was placed under threat last season after the department was scrutinised and failed to meet category three criteria.

The club were, therefore, given a second chance to prove their credentials and, this time, passed with flying colours.

But academy manager Andy McMillan, who took up his new position in the summer, has revealed that the football and financial implications of another unsuccessful audit could have been dire.

He said: "I am delighted we have achieved category three status because it is of massive importance to the club going forward. The auditors have confirmed that they are pleased with everything we have done over the last few months and it gives us the opportunity to keep the best local players at the club and produce footballers.

"If we had not got through this audit, that might have been it. We didn't score enough points to get category four status last time and the funding would have been pulled.

"The club would have also needed to pay money back from the funding they had already received but we got 170 mandatory points out of 171, so we can claim to be one of the top category three academies in the country now."

McMillan also reckons that the addition to the staff of performance analyst Luke Foulkes and his filming work, in conjunction with York St John's University students, means the Minstermen are the envy of higher-rated academies in that provision.

Every academy and youth-team home match, covering U9 to U18 level, is now recorded and McMillan added: "With the help from York St John's, all our home games on a Sunday are filmed.

"Luke is also being used by the first team now and has brought a tremendous amount of professionalism to the academy. We can clip games and part of games that we need to look at.

"It gives us the opportunity as well to do individual work with the players. If a centre-half wants to look at his game, for example, he can watch himself and so can his parents, so it's a great learning tool for the kids.

"No other category two academy can offer that. We are using York St John's facilities at the Mille Crux site on Haxby Road.

"Richard Cresswell has built up a fantastic relationship with the university and it's great experience for the students to help with the filming too. We are doing more than we are required to do, but if we are going to produce better players, we need to step up our levels."

The City legend went on to stress that the academy's improvements have been the result of a real team effort with his fellow new arrivals Foulkes, development consultant Cresswell and academy head of operations and welfare Adie Costello, brother of ex-City midfielder Nigel, all complementing the good work done by existing staff members.

"We've brought in some fantastic staff to turn it around and add to the efforts of the likes of (head of academy coaching) Richard Dryden, (youth development phase lead coach) Darren Kelly and Tom Sutton," McMillan pointed out. "Adie is putting a huge amount of work in.

"He oversees the day-to-day business of the academy, taking care of a lot of the things in the office and the management of staff, which takes the pressure off myself and allows me to get on the field and coach. We've also got part-time UEFA B licence coaches working with every group and, employing all these people within the structure we are implementing, is allowing the academy to push forward more and more."

McMillan also feels attempts to cast the talent net wider and address the age-old problem of fending off circling vultures are already paying dividends, citing the recent rebuffal of an approach from Sunderland as evidence.

"Local players have been going to Leeds and Hull during the club's time out of the Football League, but we've now got five scouts working in the York area every Sunday and we are recruiting from the North-East, Bridlington, Scarborough, Pickering and Hull because you need to get out there and find players and not just rely on recommendations," he explained. "We've got some good players coming through now and there are a couple that Sunderland are chasing in the U15s.

"We need to decide next whether we are a selling club at that level or do we keep them, get them on the pitch and see them potentially move on for more money later on. I am pleased, though, that both lads have stressed they are more than happy to stay at York City due to the quality of our coaches and the facilities we have access to now."

McMillan reckons, too, that City's move to a new community stadium, proposed for the summer of 2016, will provide the club with an opportunity to operate a higher-level academy.

"One of our main goals is to get category two status and that could be achievable when we move to the new ground with the improved facilities and a 3G pitch at the training ground," he said. "We would need more staff, but I know it's something the chairman is thinking about and I think we will be ready for it in a couple of years.

"Then, we can compete on the same terms as the likes of Leeds, Sheffield Wednesday, Sheffield United and Newcastle."

The support of new boss Russ Wilcox and his predecessor Nigel Worthington has also been emphasised by the former Barnet, Notts County and Hull City coach, who added: "Nigel was very supportive and attended all our technical board meetings to give us his input.

"The new gaffer also wants to know what's going on and has a philosophy similar to ourselves, which is to get the ball on the floor and play. We're obviously not driven by results, so we can do that a bit more than when three league points or a place in the next round of the FA Cup is at stake.

"Our drive is to produce players and we might sometimes over play at academy level but all the players need to develop a familiarity with the ball, so they have that when it is needed in the future."

City's current U18 side have won just one of their opening nine fixtures and are bottom of the Football League Youth Alliance's north-east division but have been depleted by the loss of striker Ben Hirst to first-team duty this season, along with skipper Ben Godfrey at certain stages.

Both players will be available for the trip to Crewe where a home tie against Fulham awaits the winners and, on that first challenge, McMillan admitted: "Crewe will be tough.

"They are a category two academy and have produced phenomenal players over the years, but we are looking forward to it and it will be a great experience."

The academy are staging a dinner, meanwhile, at Sandburn Hall on Sunday, December 7, supporting the appeal in memory of York schoolboy Oscar Hughes.

Funds raised will be donated to a charity specifically intended to help children with brain tumours and tickets cost £30.

Match Of The Day commentator Guy Mowbray will be compering and auctions and raffles will also be held.

To book a place or a table for ten or 12 guests, phone Andy McMillan on 07720 445928.

Coulson’s out in the clear

MICHAEL Coulson is now the outright leader of The York City Press Player of the Year contest.

The 26-year-old winger received two points as our second highest-rated performer during last weekend's 1-1 FA Cup home draw with AFC Wimbledon.

That reward saw him move clear of previous, fellow joint-leaders Keith Lowe, Femi Ilesanmi and Russell Penn.

Lowe, meanwhile, was awarded a point as The Press' third highest-rated player whilst our man-of-the-match Jake Hyde picked up three for that accolade.

Marksman Hyde also collected the two Player of the Month bonus points on offer to that competition having topped our online poll.

To be in with a chance of presenting the November Player of the Month with his prize - a framed photograph - at Bootham Crescent, please vote for your man of the match from today’s game against Oxford on this website or tweeting the @daveflettpress account.

The Press Player of the Year standings: Coulson 13, Lowe 12, Ilesanmi 11, Penn 11, McCombe 10, McCoy 9, Ingham 8, De Girolamo 7, Straker 7, Summerfield 6, Hyde 5, Montrose 5, Fletcher 3, Jarvis 3, Cisak 2, Winfield 2.

The Press Player of the Month for November standings: De Girolamo 5, Hyde 5, Cisak 2, Coulson 2, Lowe 2.

Goals: De Girolamo 3, Fletcher 3, Hyde 3, Coulson 2, Lowe 2, Penn 1, Winfield 1.

Assists: Coulson 4, McCoy 3, Meikle 3, Hyde 1, Lowe 1, Penn 1, Straker 1, Summerfield 1.

Bad boys: Penn three yellow, one red; Hyde, McCoy, Montrose all two yellow; Jarvis one red; Coulson, Fletcher, Ilesanmi, Lowe, McCombe, Platt, Straker all one yellow.