NEWCASTLE UNITED remain committed to building a new state-of-the-art training complex in the next few years, but the club’s hierarchy feel the building work that is nearing completion at the current Darsley Park site will help reverse much of the decline that had set in under Mike Ashley’s previous regime.
The Magpies’ Saudi Arabia-backed ownership group have been assessing potential sites for a new training facility, with a location at Gosforth Park’s Parklands understood to have been earmarked as the current preferred option.
However, with the planning process yet to begin, the completion of a new training base remains some years off, so resources have been committed to improving the club’s current complex in Little Benton.
Under Ashley, it was felt that investing in the current facility was effectively ‘dead money’ when a move away from Darsley Park was planned at some stage in the future, and as a result, the standard of Newcastle’s training ground lagged markedly behind that of almost all their fellow Premier League clubs.
Work has finally begun to address the shortfall, with Newcastle’s chief executive officer, Darren Eales, adamant it was right to commit resources to the improvements, even though the desire to uproot in the future remains in place.
“It’s a huge shout to the owners, coming in the way they did,” said Eales, who joined Newcastle after previous successful stints at Tottenham and Atlanta United. “Obviously, you had the relegation fight at the time, and the January transfer window, but there have been so many building blocks they’ve already put in place, which is just incredible.
“There’s been so many great things that have happened. One of the things that has been impressive in all of our chaos and stuff going on is looking and saying, ‘Okay, we’ve got the training ground that’s there – how can we incrementally improve it?’
“Yes, at some stage, with a long-term vision, that’s an area we’re going to look at in terms of a new facility. But it’s still saying, ‘What can we do now that can be done that can help the first team?’”
Building work has been under way for the last couple of months, with Eddie Howe and his first-team squad continuing to work around the ongoing construction.
One of the key improvements is the construction of new hydrotherapy and plunge pools, with a picture of a paddling pool having become emblematic of the perceived underinvestment that blighted Ashley’s years at the helm.
Work is also ongoing to improve the first-team changing rooms, create new doctor and physio rooms, update the video presentation room and create a new modern players’ lounge and an extended dining area.
“I think they did a great job very quickly in saying, ‘Okay, how can we do some little things like putting a hydro pool in’,” said Eales. “From a rehabilitation perspective, we’ve got the ability now to have that resource. We’ve also been able to create a little bit more space for our medical and sports science.
“With all of those factors, it’s a way to provide incremental benefit to the team. It’s not thinking about, ‘Is that sunk cost if we go somewhere else?’ It’s actually saying, ‘No, we need to deliver to the first team’. It’s not easy, but we’ve got to get stuff done.”
Not, however, that the ongoing work detracts from the longer-term need to construct a new training facility that will enable Newcastle to keep pace with their Premier League rivals.
Leicester City’s new training ground, opened in 2020, was widely praised, while Manchester City’s 80-acre Etihad Campus, opened in 2013 and built at an estimated cost of around £200m, is still widely regarded as a world-leading complex.
“I think it’s an area where we’ve found some incremental improvements,” said Eales. “But clearly, on a long-term vision, the training ground is an area where, if we’re going to get to where we want to get to, we’re going to need those facilities. It’s one of those factors you’re going to need to have in place.”