Wigan Athletic revealed a glimpse of the future last night, as the club unveiled plans to develop its Christopher Park training ground into a leading football academy for its young players.
In a meeting held at the DW Stadium to discuss the plans with local residents, a panel led by Chairman Dave Whelan Acting Head of the Academy Matt Jackson and Chief Executive Jonathan Jackson revealed phase one of a multi-million pound project which will see the first team facilities moved to a purpose-built out-of-town site, while the club’s existing facilities will be developed to cater for the stars of the future, from 8 to 16 year olds, to enable the club to compete with its Premier League rivals.
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, involving thousands of local people every year.
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.
The building of a full-size indoor training facility and a state of the art 3G all-weather surface are an integral part of the project, alongside six existing outdoor pitches, as well as modernised changing facilities, gymnasium and offices to cater for teams of all age groups within the academy.
Jackson said: “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.
“These exciting new plans are the first part of a major new development aimed at creating a Category 1 Football Academy at Wigan Athletic.”
Wigan Athletic took over the Christopher Park site in 1995, and last year purchased the site from Wigan College, freeing the club to put its plans into development.
The playing standard of the pitches is already extremely high following year on year investment in drainage and turfing projects over the past decade and more, but the club is determined that it should do everything in its power to comply with the directives for football academies as established in the Premier League’s Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP), a new initiative aimed at revolutionising youth development within English football.
Jackson added: “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.
“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.”