SUNDERLAND Football club’s new training base will be treasured by the people of South Tyneside, predicts Mp David Miliband.
The South Shields MP – and Black Cats board member – was speaking at the opening of the Academy of Light’s controversial new training barn and outdoor pitch in Cleadon yesterday.
Proposals for a ‘training barn’ were originally rejected by South Tyneside Council in 2002 and the club’s youngsters were forced to use Crowtree Leisure Centre in Sunderland for indoor training.
New plans were submitted in 2009 and the scheme – which also features a floodlit outdoor pitch – was finally given the green light by councillors in March of this year, despite opposition from residents.
The Cleadon facility falls inside Mr Miliband’s constituency.
“I am very proud that the South Shields constituency should contain not only a great football academy but a fantastic indoor pitch,” he said.
“I am very pleased the planning issues were resolved so quickly to the benefit of all concerned.
“I think it will come to be treasured by the whole South Shields community.”
England legend Sir Trevor Brooking visited the academy yesterday to formally open the new facility.
The club says both pitches are crucial to meet the needs of the Premier League’s elite player performance plan, aimed at improving development of footballers.
Chairman Ellis Short welcomed a party of VIPs including Premier League chairman Sir Dave Richards to the opening ceremony.
He said: “We are very proud of our training ground.”
Unveiling a plaque to mark the occasion in his role as the Football Association’s Director of Football Development, Sir Trevor Brooking said facilities such as the Academy of Light would help not only club teams but also England.
He said: “It is absolutely crucial with the changes going on in the game”.
Lessons learned in the development of the Academy of Light have been applied to the building of England’s St George’s Park centre of excellence in Staffordshire.
Former Black Cats chairman Sir Bob Murray has been involved in that development and was at the Academy of Light to see the completion of the project he started more than a decade ago.
“It is nice to see it signed off,” he said.