Training Facilities & Academy

In 2013 Newcastle United announced that they would build a new multi-million pound training facility.  Since then, the message had been fairly consistent from the club, managers and staff that improvements are needed.  There has not been anything approaching the announced overhaul, but at least there was recognition that it’s something that is required.

Then in 2018 Mike Ashley started making noises in opposition to this view. In his letter to Secretary of state for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Jeremy Wright in August 2018, he said it’s fine as it is.  This was soon followed by a public argument for prioritising the first team squad over the academy and facilities from Lee Charnley.  So, ground still hasn’t been broken on the upgrade announced in 2013.

October 2019
Despite the stated position of the club being that the Academy would not be a priority and investment there was beyond their means if they were to spend on the first team, Lee Charnley took the opportunity of the Longstaff brothers playing together for the first time , and winning against Manchester United, to claim rather than a cost saving, the club have a policy of cultivating local talent with a goal of promoting one academy product every year into the first team:

“To see Sean [Longstaff] do it last year and Matty get his opportunity — and he looked like it was his 25th or 50th game, not his first — was so pleasing for everyone. I think it was fantastic and we’ve seen the public reaction, not just the Newcastle public. I saw what Gary Neville tweeted after the game (he praised the boys and said their performance made him happy).  We want to be the best academy in the region. Our vision is we want local boys to look at it and think it’s not going to be full of boys from London, Manchester or abroad. Between nine and 16, it will be an academy with boys predominantly from the local area. There will be exceptions but generally, it will be local.  Other clubs may move boys around the country, sign them at 12, 13, 14, move their education. We’re not doing that. Consciously, we have made a decision not to do that and to give local boys the opportunity.  People say it might be because of this reason [no wanting to spend money] or that but it’s not. It’s a conscious decision to get local boys because we want local boys to see what’s happened with Paul [Dummett], Sean and Matty, and say that’s who they want to be.  They’ll know, if they’re good enough and work hard enough, they’ll get an opportunity at their hometown club. That’s what we want.  [The club’s] ultimate aim is that one player every year comes through our system and ends up in our first-team squad. That is what we want to achieve.” – Source

August 2019
Lee Charnley argues for prioritising the first team squad over the academy and facilities in an interview with the Chronicle

“What we have said is, it is about priorities.  There is a pot of money. Where is the greater need? At this time it’s on field.  It’s not unreasonable, the pot of money can only go so far. You go and spend it on the training ground it means there is less to spend on the team.  Spend it on the Academy, there is less to spend on the team.  Spend too much on wages, there’s less to spend on the team.  That doesn’t mean we don’t spend in all those areas, because we do, but our view has been at this point in time the priority is what goes on to the field.  It doesn’t mean we don’t want to update the training ground.  Does it mean at some point in time we would like to update the training ground? Absolutely, yes.  It is about priorities. It doesn’t stop us doing what we need to do on a daily basis.  Our pitches are very good, our gym is perfectly adequate and functional.  Do we have a swimming pool or water facilities? No.  Would we like to have it at some stage?  Absolutely.” – Source

A cryptic comment in an article for the athletic from Rafa Benitez suggest an ulterior for Ashley being the only person not keen to upgrade the training ground

They told me they didn’t want to invest in the academy or the training ground — if they like, I can explain the reason why Mike Ashley refused to do that.  Their idea of a project was a policy of signing players under 24 and, in my opinion, the budget available was not enough to compete for the top 10.” – Source

July 2019
In an interview with Mike Ashley in the Daily Mail, the claim was made that a £20m training ground improvement was put in writing to, then manager, Rafa Benitez

“Newcastle have a record of their correspondence with Benitez which includes the openness to an eight-year deal, and a pledge of £20m to improve training facilities.” – Source 

April 2019
In an interview, Lee Charnley reiterates that the cost of a training ground upgrade is now the excuse to not invest, rather than uncertainty over the league status of the club or any disruption it would cause the squad:

“We are looking at a training ground building project that is potentially going to be between £15 m and £20million.  If you were to ask me now, do I think we are best served spending that on a new training facility or spending it on improving the team, now, today in the short-term, I think that money is best spent on the team.  We have revisited the plans that came out and we now have a different design. We have also got a different build structure.  In my experience, has a player turned round and said I’m not signing for Newcastle United because of your training facilities? No. Did it stop us getting promoted out of the Championship, did it stop us finishing tenth, did it stop us having a good season this season? No. Is it something at some point in the future, if we could and it was the right time to spend the money, we would look at improving? Yes.” – Source

September 2018
Eddie Rutherford, NUFC facilities manager, in an interview with The Chronicle

“Yes, we know we need a [training] building long-term, we know that.
It’s common knowledge we have plans for the training ground
We have one pitch outside we want to upgrade – there are plans.
within the training ground there are lots of things which have been done over the last few years and lots of things we want to do and the same at the academy.
If I say I want all this money to do everything I want to do in one go, I’m not going to get it so you need to be sensible. These are things we need to do.” – Source

In the Fans Fourum, it’s stated that the cost of a training ground upgrade is now the excuse to not invest, with limited funds available and those funds best reserved for buying first team players.

There is a shared aim to improve training facilities but in prioritising its needs, the club feels its overall budget is currently better spent on the team.  Eddie Rutherford’s view was that the club’s facilities were by no means the worst in the Premier League.

Is the aim just not to be the worst?
The club stated that was absolutely not its aim. It always wants to improve in all areas and that will continue. Whilst there might be differences around the timeline, what all parties want is ultimately the same. 

Do those plans include hydrotherapy facilities?
The club confirmed that would be an inclusion. 

What is the timescale?
The club is currently unable to put a timescale on the new training ground building.  However, plans have been drawn up and it would be built modularly, around the existing facility. This change to the plan was at the suggestion of the manager in order to minimise disruption to the players and all parties agree this is a significantly better approach than the original plans. 

Given there’s one pot of money, something has to give; the timescale on the training ground, or investment in the playing side. Is that fair to say?
The club agreed, stating that at this time the squad was its priority and full focus.

 – Source

At the same time the club argued for the de-prioritisation of the Academy

“The club believes the debate around Academies is intensifying. There is a belief that it is becoming more and more difficult to bring through young talent, with managers generally reluctant to call on Academy players in the Premier League. The club also believes the current rules make it easier for the big five or six teams in the country to secure the best players from all other Academy systems.” – Source

August 2018
Mike Ashley, in a letter to Secretary of state for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Jeremy Wright.

“Our training facilities have improved significantly during my tenure. They are fit for purpose and very clearly do not have a negative impact on performance, given we secured a place within the top 10 of the Premier League last season.” – Source

June 2017
Fans Forum

“The club is continuing to discuss the development of the training ground but is currently prioritising investment in other areas incuding the squad, rather than on the immediate construction of brand new facilities.  While plans haven’t changed significantly, there have been modifications to the process in consultation with the manager and the club is aiming to minimise disruption to the team. There is currently no timescale on developments but the club remains committed to the long term project.  The club reassured members that while it would like to improve aspects of the training ground building, the outdoor and indoor pitches that players use for match preparation are as good as anywhere else in the Premier League.” – Source

August 2016
Fans Forum

“The club explained that it had enhanced its initial Training Centre plans significantly and that discussions had taken place with Rafa Benítez prior to any work commencing.  Following those discussions, it was agreed that knocking down the entire building could be extremely disruptive, particularly given the team’s current focus.  Accordingly, the club is exploring how the building could be developed modularly; enabling the team to remain in the Training Centre while still allowing for significant improvements to the building infrastructure.  Eddie Rutherford confirmed that in the meantime, significant investment had been over the summer months to enhance the layout of the current building and gym in consultation with Rafa Benítez. There has also been a brand new artificial surface laid at both the training centre and Academy.  The club reemphasised its original commitment to significantly improving the club’s training facilities going forward.” – Source

June 2016
Rafa Benitez on priorities after becoming manager

“The first few days after I confirmed I was staying, I spent in Newcastle at the training ground and the Academy, meeting with staff and planning the changes we needed to make to these areas of the Club.” – Source

February 2016
Fans Forum

“The club explained that it had reviewed its construction plans to see if enhancements could be made. Those improvements have been added, resulting in a superior facility to the original drawings. Those plans are with architects and the club will proceed at the most appropriate time. The club still has the same desire to improve those facilities.” – Source

October 2015
Fans Forum

Are there any updates on the club’s new training facility?Club reply – The club took the original decision to delay construction for two reasons. Firstly, its league position at a time when it was required to sign contracts for work to start in May 2015 and, thereafter, to minimise disruption in the first season of a new head coach.  The plans have since been revisited to see if any enhancements can be made and that is on going. The club is committed to upgrading its training facilities at the most appropriate time. – Source

July 2015
Fans Forum

The club outlined that planning has been approved, tenders had been out and prices had been supplied. In order to proceed, contracts needed to be signed well in advance but because of the position the club found itself in towards the end of the season, the decision was taken not to commit at that time.  Along with the head coach, the club is now identifying the best time to start work and is mindful of disruptions mid-season. – Source

November 2013
Joe Kinnear, Director of Football at the time, on the announcement of a new multi-million pound training facility

“This is a hugely exciting development for Newcastle United. We have one of football’s great stadiums and we are delighted to now be announcing plans for a training complex which will rival any in Europe.  Top players and top teams need top training and medical facilities. Our current training ground has served the Club very well but the new complex will give us all of the ingredients that we need to continue maintaining and enhancing the performance of elite footballers. It will also be an added attraction when we are looking to recruit players.” – Source

Club Statement outlining the details of a new multi-million pound training facility

“The current intention is that work will get underway in May 2015 and when complete in early 2016, the Magpies will occupy one of the finest training facilities of its kind in Europe.  While existing training pitches and a modern indoor training hall will be retained, the Club’s current Training Centre building will be demolished and replaced by a much larger, high-tech structure.  It will accommodate newly-designed changing, training, rehabilitation, medical, leisure and catering facilities and will also introduce the latest aquatic technology to the site, with a 20-metre swimming pool, a hydrotherapy and fitness pool and specialist equipment to aid injury prevention and recovery.  The new construction will also create a fitness centre double the size of the Club’s existing gymnasium, as well as administrative space, a presentation suite for match analysis and a new media suite.” – Source

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