Palace Academy aiming to inspire stars of the future

29 Oct 2021
Crystal Palace Academy

Wilfried Zaha and Gareth Southgate help to officially open redeveloped state-of-the-art facility

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Crystal Palace chairman Steve Parish says their £20million training ground redevelopment will have a "transformative effect on the future of the football club and local community".

Located in Beckenham, south east London, the Crystal Palace Academy boasts state-of-the-art facilities that will become an important resource for the development of young talent as well as community programmes.

"[It will not only enable us] to attract and retain the best players in one of England's richest footballing areas but also to help scores of young people and local schools enjoy the facilities," Parish said.

"We will also be able to offer a comprehensive educational and player care programme, ensuring that even those players who don’t make it have an improved set of life choices.

"Outside of football, the classrooms, together with our Foundation, will be used to run evening classes, enhancing the educational and life choices of young people in south London."

The facility boasts six full-size pitches, including an outdoor 3G pitch, and a full-size covered indoor 3G training pitch with a built-in sprinkler system. 

There are also classrooms, a lecture room, analysis and meeting rooms, as well as a gymnasium, restaurant and kitchen.

The development is a massive boost for the club's Academy set-up, which was granted Category One status back in May, along with the 10 youth teams and Palace Women that will use the site.

Inspiration for youth teams

"It's amazing," said Palace winger Wilfried Zaha, who joined the club as a youngster 15 years ago. "We didn't have pitches like this at all and the standard wasn't this high.

"Now you can actually compete with the other elite clubs. I feel like Palace have one of the best academies in recruitment and now they have the facilities to go with it. It's a different class now."

Zaha, manager Patrick Vieira and the rest of the first-team squad were at the official opening of the facility this week, alongside Roy Hodgson, Alan Pardew, Ian Holloway and current England boss and former Palace player Gareth Southgate.

"People will feel special coming here," Southgate told the club's official website. "At Palace we had a resilience but whenever we travelled to Highbury or to Tottenham Hotspur, we did feel a bit inferior. We didn't necessarily have that investment in us.

Crystal Palace Academy Gareth Southgate
Gareth Southgate officially opens the new Crystal Palace Academy

"You've got one of the best catchment areas in the country but if you can’t match the facilities of some of the clubs nearby then that is going to be a barrier to recruitment. So one of those differences now is changed.

"Crystal Palace have always had a philosophy of producing home-grown players. I am impressed by the club's vision to develop well-rounded, educated individuals with good life skills who can be role models in the community, as well as technically gifted young players who can excel on the pitch."

As well as supporting the playing side, the Crystal Palace Academy will be used by the Palace For Life Foundation to help them expand their existing community programmes such as Premier League Kicks and Breaking the Cycle, a mentoring initiative that help young people turn their lives around.

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