Gus Poyet has hailed Albion’s ground-breaking move into under-21 football as “fantastic” news.

The Seagulls will be playing in a new development league next season rather than entering a reserve team in the Football Combination.

They will tackle home and away fixtures against clubs of a similar size, some of which will be staged at first team stadia.

Development coach Luke Williams will take charge of side which must be predominantly made up of under-21 players.

Each team can feature three over-age outfield players and there is no restriction on the age of the goalkeeper.

Albion have secured their place in the league as a prospective Category Two Academy as they plan the move to their new training base.

The new league is part of a massive shake-up of youth football under the umbrella of the Elite Player Performance Plan, driven by Premier League clubs.

Albion’s second string matches, often against lower division clubs, have lacked intensity in recent seasons but first team boss Poyet said: “This will be much better for us. It will be fantastic.”

A fixture format was still being finalised this week but Williams’ team will take on other Category Two set-ups from the south of the country, possibly including Premier League clubs QPR and Swansea.

Matches are likely to be played at the weekend.

Williams said: “I think this is the only way forward. Teams will be well matched, there will be matches week in and week out and we will play on good pitches “It’s the way to learn and I believe in the medium to long term there will be a big benefit for the first team.”

Albion’s development squad go to Nicky Forster’s Dover Athletic for a friendly on Saturday although one or two will be involved in the first team run out at Maidstone.

The youngsters also have friendlies at Eastbourne United on Wednesday, July 25, Lancing on Saturday, July 28, and Dagenham and Redbridge on Saturday, August 4.