How Burnley are laying foundations for the future

The Barnfield Training Centre was opened in March this year

The Barnfield Training Centre was opened in March this year

BIG things happened at Burnley this summer, although you probably didn’t hear about them because of the din of the transfer window jamboree.

The club put the final touches to a state-of-the-art £10.6m training centre and were awarded Category Two Academy status. While Huddersfield have gained headlines for effectively closing down their Academy, the Clarets are firmly wedded to theirs. They actually have Category One facilities and hope to reach that level in the not too distant future.

It’s interesting to contrast the two clubs.

While Burnley have more recent Premier League experience, they’re of a similar size - Huddersfield with an average attendance of 20,165 last season and capacity of 24,500; Burnley with an average of 20,588 and capacity of 21,800 - with similar ambitions.

Their approaches have been very different though. Huddersfield had a net spend of almost £35m in the transfer window and decided to downgrade from Category 2 to Category 4, closing down all youth teams below the Under-18s.

In contrast, Burnley made a net profit of £14m from their transfer dealings, went from Category 3 to Category 2 and entered their U18s and U23s into the Professional Development Leagues for the first time (the U18s are currently top of their division). They also upgraded their scouting network, creating the new role of Head of European Recruitment.

Manager Sean Dyche has been heavily involved in the design of the training centre and has willingly tailored his transfer spending as the club focused on top-class infrastructure.

It brings to mind the work of David Moyes during his time at Everton. When the Toffees recently fielded an Academy graduate for the 1,000th consecutive game, it was a legacy of the Scot's commitment to youth and the building of Finch Farm, which was opened in 2007. Whereas other clubs like Portsmouth splurged on player wages and had no real assets to show at the end of it, Moyes and Everton looked to the future.

Dyche says: “At the very first board meeting I attended, I asked where the Premier League money had gone from that season [2009/10]. They said: ‘What do you mean?’ I told them that I had played at Turf Moor loads of times and the changing rooms were still the same. They didn’t have a training ground, really. Yet the money had been spent. I told them: ‘You can’t do that again.’ There had to be a bigger picture, a bigger future than that.”

The facilities at the new Barnfield Training Centre are are a far cry from the old ones at Gawthorpe Hall, where the pitches were prone to flooding when the River Calder rose and media were hosted in an old groundsman’s bungalow.

There are now three full-sized pitches (including a heated Desso one), two three-quarter sized pitches, an indoor pitch, hydrotherapy treadmill and hot and cold plunge pools.The youth teams are based at the same site, meaning youngsters rub shoulders with the likes of Chris Wood and Tom Heaton.

Under-18s coach Danny Cadamarteri says all the conditions are in place for youngsters to progress through to the first time in the future.

“The facilities are amazing," the former Everton striker told the Lancashire Telegraph this week. "The support structure that the club have put in through the first team’s success over the last few season is great, they’ve spent the money very wisely.

“There’s no better environment for young hopeful footballers to apply their trade and strive in the same building as first team players. Those kids want to take some of their places, the job is to get into that first team squad and stake a claim for their places.

“So to rub shoulders with the first team and see how they live, how they train, how they prepare and how they recover is a fantastic situation for them to be in.

“We’ve had James Clarke, Scott Wilson, Dwight McNeil and Ollie Younger all go and train with the first team, and one or two others have had a little experience of it as well. James Clarke is doing really well for us at the moment, he’s a second year scholar and he’s really highly thought of within the club, he’s gone and trained with the first team and performed very, very well.

“He’s rubbing shoulders with the first team and as a defender he’s training up against Chris Wood and Nahki Wells and people like that, which is a fantastic thing for him.

“The good thing about the start is that we’ve adapted to Category 2 football very well so far, it’s been a stretch at times but the lads have competed very well and some of the performances have been rewarded with results."

Foundations for the future.

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