When we dropped out of the league, the training ground was a millstone around our neck. The complex up at Carlton Boulevard, whilst sound is theory, was a complete failure.
I suppose it typified the era after Keith and before the National League, an era of attempted decadence, an era in which one plan was to give thousands of Imps shirts out in schools to encourage younger fans to the bank. We attracted a top name manager, or rather a top name who wanted to be a manager. It was an era built on foundations of sand, except the training ground itself. It was built on clay.
Fast forward six or seven years and the words ‘training ground’ are no longer a punchline to a joke or a derogatory slur on the administration of the day. Now, a training ground is an aspirational purchase, it is a requirement and something that will facilitate progress. Had Carlton Boulevard been fit for purpose, it could have been the one legacy from Goal 2010 that actually put something into the club. It wasn’t though, so we’ve been back to the drawing board.
We now move closer and closer to having a new purpose-built facility within driving distance of the ground. I can’t say too much as I’m not sure what is common knowledge or not, but we do know it is costing around £1m and we know Danny has been consulted on pretty much everything from location to fixtures and fittings. This is not just the club’s facility, it is Danny’s baby. The directors and staff have listened to him for the finer details and, as far as I’m aware, delivered to him more or less exactly what he has asked for.
The aim is to be functional for the summer, something that might seem ambitious but is certainly attainable. If that is the case then the facility will be in place by the time we want to attract new talent, or we’ll certainly be able to show prospective players around a 95% finished site. Once we kick off 2018/19, whichever league we’re in, we’ll finally have a training facility to be proud of. At the fans’ forum there was talk of glass balconies overlooking the pitches, of the press conferences being held there, of a café and rehabilitation facilities too…. it’s going to be a revelation.
In 2003 he was amazed we were rotating various schools and local authority pitches instead of training on our own ground. even now, our ground staff are battling a terrible playing surface because we occasionally train on it.
Once upon a time I used to spend a lot of time down in Devon, I had grandparents down there who have both sadly passed away, but we always used to stop just outside Exeter at a pub called the Cat and Fiddle on our way down to Sidmouth. Opposite the Cat and Fiddle is the imaginatively titled ‘Cat and Fiddle training ground’, the home of Exeter City. we’d often watch for fifteen minutes or so as they trained and it always struck me as odd we didn’t have one. This was back in the 1990’s too, which shows how far ago we were behind other teams.
I spoke to Daren Dykes a few years ago, he was a former Swindon player who joined on loan for a short spell. He never really made it and ended up drifting into the non-league scene, but in 2003 he was amazed we were rotating various schools and local authority pitches instead of training on our own ground. even now, our ground staff are battling a terrible playing surface because we occasionally train on it. The situation had become untenable and I’m sure when the new facility opens, we’ll be infinitely better all round.
Why am I going over this again? Well, this week the Peterborough job came up and although most bookies had Danny fifth or sixth, the serious commentators didn’t put them in the frame. I think the message is getting through that they’re here to over see a project, not to simply boost their own careers. There’s much more of the ‘Eddie Howe’ about them than a club hopping rise, hitching lifts on whoever is doing well. I think, deep down, they want to take us to the Bournemouth or Burton Albion heights, they want to pick the club up, dust it down and put us as high as we’ve ever been.
I’m not saying we’re going to the Championship, I’m not saying Danny and Nicky can demand whatever they want and we must get it, but I do think the harmony between club and manager is as strong as ever. I think both of the brothers are more involved with the day to day running of the club, where appropriate, than most managers are. I also think in us building a training ground, we’re giving ourselves every chance of returning to the third tier, if we fail to do so this campaign. Believe me, that elusive striker we all covet is far more likely to become reality if he’s shown around a brand new training ground on his first day, rather than being shown around Sincil Bank and maybe the barracks. I’m not critical of the barracks, a lot of great work went in to getting that up and running and fit for purpose. We’ve outgrown it now, but without it we may not have even got where we are now.
Danny once said him and Nicky would stay put as long as the club matched their ambitions. I think a purpose-built £1m training facility is a good start, don’t you?