BY TOBY PORTER
Crystal Palace are set to invest millions in revamping and expanding their youth academy to ensure it competes with the biggest sides in the Premier League.
The Eagles yesterday revealed plans to develop its academy site in Copers Cope Road, Beckenham – an application will be submitted next month to bump it up from its current Category 2 status.
The new campus will include:
- A full-size covered pitch with undersoil heating
- A dome with a second full-size pitch
- A third floodlit pitch
- Five classrooms, extra meeting rooms and meeting spaces
- A new medical treatment, rehabilitation, and sports science complex
The academy will also get its own full-time psychologist for the first time and eight full-time teachers.
The club want the changes in place for the start of the 2020/21 season.
The Eagles last night presented their plans to local residents, before a planning application is submitted to Bromley council in the coming days.
They secured a long-term lease for the site on Copers Cope Road, Beckenham last December – a site right opposite the first-team training facility.
The academy currently relies heavily on nearby projects to meet increasing demand for its playing, training and education sites for more than 220 players in 10 teams from the U9s to U23s.
The club’s U15s are national Super Floodlit Cup champions, whilst the U18s and U23s – then guided by club legend Richard Shaw – won their respective leagues in the 2017/18 season.
There are currently 35 full-time and 100 part-time staff in its academy. This is expected to rise by 20 – including the eight full-time teachers for players’ education.
The Eagles’ academy produced Wilfried Zaha, who has played 334 times for his boyhood club, scoring 53 goals – plus Aaron Wan-Bissaka – sold to Manchester United for £50million in July.
Other Academy graduates to star in the Premier League includel Nathaniel Clyne (currently Liverpool) -185 Premier League appearances
- Victor Moses (at Chelsea – but currently on loan at Fenerbahce) – 220 Premier League appearances
- Ben Watson (Nottingham Forest) -145 Premier League appearances
- Wayne Routledge (Swansea) – 297 Premier League appearances
- Jonny Williams (Charlton) – 12 Premier League
Current England manager Gareth Southgate is also a Palace academy graduate.
In the last 15 years, 34 players have come through the ranks to make a first team appearance for the Eagles, collectively making more than 1,000 appearances for the club.
Luke Dreher is the most recent youngster to progress into the first team, making his debut against AFC Bournemouth in May. And Sam Woods started against Colchester United in the Carabao Cup earlier this season. Both recently signed new deals.
Crystal Palace chairman Steve Parish said: “Securing Category 1 status for our Academy is imperative for us to be competitive in attracting the very best young players. There is an abundance of raw footballing talent in South London.
“I am extremely proud and excited to share these plans, which are of critical importance to help ensure our future as an established Premier League football club.
“We must ensure the best youngsters are playing here and developing their careers at Crystal Palace.
“We have shown in recent years we have a clear pathway for our most gifted and committed players into our first-team – a tradition we are committed to continuing.
“Our coaching staff, several of whom have represented Palace, are devoted not only to developing world-class footballers, but exceptional people too.
It would hugely benefit the club and our young players to have our entire academy set-up on one site in Bromley, where we can increase our contact time them and also vastly enhance our education provision and support infrastructure for them.
“We have taken great care in developing plans for the site in a responsible and sustainable way, and hope nearby residents and Bromley council will support them.”
The club wants to start work early next year and finish by next August, if permission is granted.
The Palace For Life and Crystal Palace FC Women are also likely to use the new campus.