Wasps shelv­ing Alan Higgs Cen­tre plans a BIG mo­ment for Sky Blues Academy

Coventry Telegraph - - FOOTBALL - By ANDY TURNER Coven­try City U18s with their 2016/17 league tro­phy

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.

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