City playing smart in future football development

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Manchester City appear poised to make their finest financial investment yet after submitting plans for a £100 million training facility just meters from their Etihad Stadium.

The bold plans have been described as the start of the club's 'next phase' by football adminstrator Brian Marwood, who believes the development will be crucial to the future development of the club.

"This is part of a 10-year strategy for long-term sustainable success. Phase one culminated in the club winning the FA Cup and qualifying for the Champions League last season. This signals the beginning of the next phase," said Marwood when the plans were unveiled yesterday.

"We know that youth development has to be at the heart of this club. Investment in the transfer market has helped us reach a certain level, to stay there will take investment in player development, welfare and top-class facilities.

"While new signings were making the headlines there were changes behind the scenes even in the early days."

Big-spending City have indeed been in the headlines over the last few seasons, with mega-money moves for Robinho, Carlos Tevez, Samir Nasri, Sergio Aguero and Yaya Toure to name a few all grabbing the attention of the football world.

However, young English players have seen minutes under Roberto Mancini, with Joe Hart and academy graduate Micah Richards featuring regularly in the past few seasons at Eastlands.

Marwood wants more though, and has undertaken a three year tour of some of the best facilities in the world to come up with the best possible plans for the Etihad Campus.

Nike laboratories in Oregon, the New York Giants' training facility, Australian institute of sport and La Lakers' complex have all been visited and examined, but it was the Barcelona model that City are keenest to follow the example of.

"They are the benchmark for developing young talent. You talk about the DNA, the philosophy and the culture, and it is there at every level in terms of how they play," said Marwood in relation to the Barcelona academy.

"Our under-19s played against them last week. You could close your eyes and see a young Iniesta or a young Xavi and that is something on which we need to work very hard here.

"What the coaching team has tried to do is develop a philosophy but also a consistency in terms of the way we play at every level right up to the first team. In the last Champions League final Barcelona had eight players that were home-grown, which is an incredible statistic.

"They have their youth stadium adjacent to the Camp Nou, and they also have their training complex close by as well. It gives players that aspiration and inspiration to go from the academy all the way through."


Specifics of the projected facility include 15 full-size pitches with surfaces varying to compare with Barclays Premier League opposition, on-site sleeping facilities for first team, reserve team and/or youth players, a rehabilitation centre and a 7,000-seater 'mini-stadium'.

A final decision on City's planning application is expected in December, with construction expected to take three to four years should permission be granted for work to begin.

"We have a proud history of bringing through players from our academy and that is something we want to enhance. What we have tried to do at every level is make it better, and develop it in a different way," Marwood concluded.

"We are trying to bring through young players that can play in the Champions League. That is what we are aiming for."

The benefits for such an ambitious project could stretch much further than Manchester, with former French international midfielder Patrick Vieira convinced the England national team can benefit from such a project in the future.

Should this development get the green light, a benchmark is likely to be set for other clubs to follow, notably city rivals United and big-spending Chelsea. All of which can only benefit the game in this country.

"I don't think England produces enough talent, certainly in relation to the number of people who love the game and play football," said Vieira.

"I don't know why, maybe it is the facilities, but it is disappointing England has not produced more. This football club wants to give people the opportunity to play for the first team and for the national team."

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