Firstly I'd like to welcome the directors, management, players and fans of Newcastle United to Selhurst Park. Both teams are looking to recover from defeats last time out, and the perfect word to sum up the defeat on Monday night was “frustrating”. Hopefully we can get back to winning ways this afternoon ahead of a busy run of fixtures.
In recent weeks I’ve seen a number of fans online discussing the changes made to the academy over the summer. Having maintained our Premier League status and invested significant sums bringing the stadium up to the necessary requirements, we have now turned some of our investment toward the training ground.
With three full size pitches and assorted training areas (such as goalkeeping and small sided pitches) the facility, whilst neat, isn’t big enough to also support the under-18 scholars and the academy side’s games. The pitches can’t take that amount of use and the offices and changing rooms were overcrowded.
Over the summer, the manager and I decided that whilst we couldn’t find a suitable permanent home for the academy we had to improve things.
In close proximity there was some land available where we felt we could improve the pitches, add some offices and give the academy their own playing site, whist still remaining connected to the first-team and development squad by sharing the catering facilities at the training ground.
This also enabled us to build a new secure, fit for purpose, office complex so Alan and his staff could always be around the players. We also upgraded and extended the medical facility and the gymnasium, adding new equipment that the doctor required including ultrasound scanning and a Zero G running machine (those on Twitter may have seen Brighty using it!).
Overall we invested nearly £2 million in the facilities for first-team and academy, doubling the amount of pitches and improving their quality.
Meanwhile Alan has put much more emphasis on looking after the youngsters currently at the club. He and I believe that getting the players experience of senior football as early as possible is the best way to develop their talents.
Younger players are getting more exposure to the development squad earlier and we’ve seen Keshi Anderson, Jake Gray, Sullay Kaikai, Hiram Boateng and Luke Croll go on loan and excel. This will give them decent experience, and remember that Wilfried Zaha and Nathaniel Clyne played over a 100 times in the Championship before they made the step up to the top-flight.
Mark Bright has been appointed in the role of looking after these players, overseeing their progress and staying in touch with them and their respective managers – including those more senior players who are also currently away from the club.
This, as well as the close involvement from the manager and the ever-watchful eye and hard work of Gary Issott, means our academy is stronger than its ever been.