Wasps shelving Alan Higgs Centre plans a BIG moment for Sky Blues Academy
NO-ONE is cracking open the Champagne just yet but the news that Wasps have scrapped their plans to re-house their training facility at Coventry City’s Academy site is a big moment for the football club’s shining light.
Just a few short months ago it was looking bleak for the Sky Blues to retain their much valued Category Two status – the standing that allows the club to compete with their Midland rivals on a level playing field in terms of recruiting the best local talent and developing them through what has been an enormously successful youth system.
That’s an Academy system that has seen a production line of young players progress into the first team year after year and the odd few – the likes of James Maddison and Callum Wilson – sold on for profit. And while selling home-grown talent is always disappointing for the fans when it happens, it’s a reality of life and very much part of the business model of clubs at the wrong end of the football pyramid.
There is still a lot of work to be done, hurdles to be overcome and negotiations to take place with Coventry Sports Foundation that runs the Alan Higgs Centre at Allard Way before the Academy’s future is secure to stay beyond the next summer.
But the way is now paved for a deal to be struck to keep the club at the excellent facility in the longterm – the facility that was purpose built for the Academy in the first place.
City’s Cat Two status hinges on a number of things, but one of the biggest requirements is having access to and use of an indoor training area at least 60 x 40 metres in size.
Plans are afoot to convert the Higgs’ current indoor pitch into a 50 metre swimming pool and build another indoor area on the site for community use, which would pretty much assure City’s status if they stay there.
It’s a dream scenario for the club to have an indoor facility, four outdoor grass pitches, a 3G all weather pitch and a swimming pool which could be used in the rehabilitation of injured players and for cool down sessions.
And if that dream does, as it should, become a reality it will send out a clear message to local junior clubs and families with talented boys that their home town club has the infrastructure in place to help their sons develop, with the hope of one day progressing to become professional footballers.
The Academy has been the one silver lining to a heavy cloud that has hung over Coventry City in recent years, enjoying year on year success whether that be competing with the likes of Arsenal
in the FA Youth Cup, winning their professional development league last season or, and most importantly, getting players into the first team. Current first team regulars Lee Burge, Jordan Willis, Jordan Ponticelli and Ryan Haynes as well as wider senior squad members Ben Stevenson, Dion and Devon Kelly-Evans, Jordan Shipley, Callum Maycock and a handful of Under-23s waiting to get their chance are living proof of why the Academy is so crucial to the football club. The current under-18s and year below are not as strong as in recent years but there is a train load of really special talent coming through below. And that’s why it’s vital that talks go well and that a deal gets done to keep the Academy light burning brightly.