New Training Complex at Etihad Stadium

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By: Peter Llewellyn

Today (31st July 2014), I was taken round our new training complex close to the Etihad Stadium on the site of the old Clayton Aniline Company. My guide was City’s Head of Infrastructure Pete Bradshaw who I knew from the days when I was a science teacher at Birley High School in Hulme in the 70s where he was a pupil. Full safety and security in place: we had to wear wellies, fluorescent jackets, hard hats and gloves provided. No mobiles allowed on site – safety issue.  People with mobiles could trip over stuff and collide with others.

The Site

City were actually looking at several sites including one near Woodford aerodrome and one near Manchester Rugby club before Chairman Kaldoon was persuaded that this site would provide links with the local community around City’s main ground and serve all their training needs as well. The site was contaminated and the soil had to be removed and “scrubbed” after which it was put back in the ground and pitches sown. There is a 10 metre drop from one side of the complex to the other which compared favourably with much bigger drops on other sites originally considered. They would have needed the terracing of pitches. The Clayton Aniline Company had long since closed down but there were a few small companies on the site who were relocated to new premises as part of the deal. No-one lost their jobs as a result of City moving to this site and many temporary and quite a few permanent local jobs have been created. There were about 600 people on site while we were there including some apprentices and much of the material needed as been sourced from within the M60 boundary.

Manchester City Etihad Training Complex
Under development: Manchester City Etihad Training Complex
Photo: Keith Trainor (www.uaimaging.co.uk)

Pitches

The various outside pitches are mostly made with Desso the mix of grass and synthetic fibre with which the Eithad pitch is laid. As well as providing a good playing surface in most weathers these pitches are durable and last 10 years or more.  At least one is sown with a grass monoculture because some clubs like Aston Villa for example, still use grass only pitches and so City’s first team would then be able to train on a similar surface before the away fixture at Villa Park.

In addition to the many pitches in the open air there is a community pitch (3G I think), a full size indoor pitch and a “secret” pitch.  The indoor pitch is similar to the F.A. at St Georges Park but the lower roof height there makes it impossible to have competitive matches.  At City’s complex the roof height is 19 metres so in the event of really bad weather the EDS team would be permitted to play a competitive match indoors. The “secret” pitch is behind walls in the middle of the complex which should prevent prying eyes from seeing the latest tactical innovations.

Many of the pitches are nearly ready but before the pitch companies can hand them over to City they have to pass certain tests of passing speed and bounce.  They don’t yet meet City’s exacting agreed specifications which will need the practice pitches to behave exactly like the ones they will play on in competitive matches.

Environment

Eventually the energy needs will be supplied by burning waste but not at first – gas fired for now.  Rain water is collected and stored in a reservoir under one of the pitches and there is also a borehole making the complex independent of external water supply. There will even be a wild flower meadow and there are already roof gardens on some of the buildings.

Medical facilities and Sports Science

The idea behind the extensive fitness and medical facility is to be able to diagnose any condition a player might have. Minor injuries would be treated by the in-house medical team but City are partnered with various hospitals and consultants who would operate on complex problems in hospital.  Eventually they will have a full M.R.I. unit. They will have cryogenic rooms where the temperature is kept low to aid recovery including one at -120 Celsius which you sit in for two minutes after being completely dried and have all rings, watches etc. removed.

The Sports Scientists provide data/images concerned with player performance. City used to use Prozone but the licensing fee was so big it’s cheaper to do it themselves. Players will for instance wear vests incorporating GPS so that their every movement can be logged.  (Probably not to the bog though….on the other hand they would probably keep it and weigh it.) They say that eventually the first team may have the GPS incorporated into their kit in a match.  Of course they have a swimming pool, jacuzzi type things and gym but also a “river” where players can run against the current.

Education

City are required to manage the education the young potential footballers to the age of 19 now so they have normal school type facilities leading to public examination at 16 (currently GCSE) and a sixth form college all on site. As well as those who arrive with good football talent but very poor literacy skills they have some very able students so all must be catered for because only a few will make the grade as professional footballers.

Accommodation

Currently the first team stay in a posh Hotel prior to any match including home games (Nostalgic pause:  Joe Hayes, one of our finest strikers from the 50s and 60s, turned up at City for a trial with his boots in a brown paper bag and asked for his bus fare back home to Bolton). Now each first team squad player will  have a room on the site and obviously all the facilities of the complex which include a team of first team welfare personnel who cater for their (nearly) every whim. So no Hotel bills for home games in future.

There is also accommodation for younger players and guests which will particularly suit the very young trialists who come long distances and whose parents naturally want to accompany them. They will be housed within the accommodation blocks and have access to the appropriate restaurants.

I frivolously suggested that all they need to complete the project was a terminal and runway for their private Airbus 380. I was told they will have a helipad.

Stadium and admin centre

The 7,000 capacity stadium has its pitch laid but no seating installed as yet.  At either end there will be safe standing and seating along the sides. There will be turnstile admission to E.D.S and Women’s matches which will be played there.  The bridge connecting the Etihad complex with the new training complex is ready but not yet open for public use. There will be some parking at the complex but also at the Etihad. This stadium is good enough to have attracted interest from some league clubs who would like to play their matches there.  Showing people around the complex will become a regular event once it is opened.

Next to this stadium is a centre where there will be open plan office space. Apparently no officer, even the Chief, has  a personal office anymore. This is the modern way. There will be various conference facilities, posh restaurant facilities for City bods to do “business” with various companies keen to sponsor our activities. So perhaps soon City will have a load of paint partners, underfelt partners and under-arm hair removal partners like another club not far from us.

The current videos of the manager explaining his way of managing the next fixture are currently made at Carrington. These will now be done at the new complex but the after-match interview will continue at the Etihad and with players in the tunnel.

The first team players have a circular dressing room with a players lounge (management free zone) above it.

Cost and Current facilities owned by City

The Carrington facility will be sold. The Platt Lane facility has already been sold. Total cost of the project is £217m not £100m as often quoted in the papers but the business case for this is that the cost of quality players has become so astronomical these days that bring through say eight such players in ten years would pay for the whole thing. This training facility will be considerably better in size and quality than any other comparable facility in the UK including the F.A’s complex at St Georges which is good. However there is no room for expansion at City’s site.

Misc

Did you know that there are four companies involved with City. The overarching one manages the lot and Manchester City Football club is the main subsidiary along with the lesser ones:  New York and Melbourne. Eventually there will be seven of these associate clubs world side. There are currently about 600 scouts looking for talent worldwide including about 40 in the United States.

Conclusion

Joe Hayes wouldn’t’ believe it and I found it difficult. They’ve thought of nearly everything. I’m a bit disappointed about the Airbus, private terminal and runway though.


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