WIGAN Athletic last night revealed a tantalising glimpse of the future as plans were unveiled to develop their training ground into a leading football academy for its young players.
Chairman Dave Whelan, chief executive Jonathan Jackson and acting head of the academy Matt Jackson met with local residents at the DW Stadium to reveal phase one of a multi-million pound project, which would see Christopher Park developed to cater for the stars of tomorrow and the first-team set-up being moved to a purpose-built out-of-town site.
The new project, delivered in conjunction with leading Manchester architects AFL, will also provide a first-class facility for the club’s Community Trust to deliver its highly-acclaimed projects within the borough.
The plans are currently in the process of being developed for planning permission, and work is expected to start at the end of the season.
An integral part of the project will be the building of a full-size indoor training facility and a state-of-the-art 3G all-weather surface, alongside six existing outdoor pitches, modernised changing facilities, a gymnasium and offices to cater for youngsters between the ages of eight and 16.
“Our continuing development both at first-team level and as a community club relies on our ability to attract and retain good quality professional players, develop young talent through our academy and the football club being a focal point of the community,” said Jackson.
“These exciting new plans are the first part of a major new development aimed at creating a Category 1 football academy at Wigan Athletic.”
Latics took over the Christopher Park site in 1995, and last year purchased the site from Wigan College which freed the club to put its plans into development.
The club is striving to comply with the directives for football academies as established in the FA’s Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP) – a new initiative aimed at revolutionising youth development within English football.
“We want the community of Wigan to be proud of its football club and this project is very much aimed at achieving this, not only in helping to develop young players capable of performing at the highest level, but also in producing a facility of the highest standard,” Jackson added.
“With this facility we intend to attract and develop young players into the next Leighton Baines – someone who came through the ranks at Wigan and now regularly represents England at full international level.
“Our dream is for the club to become synonymous with excellence on and off the pitch, and this first stage of our development is a huge step in the right direction to make that dream come true.”