Manchester City yesterday tabled plans for the most ambitious training facility in world football, in the hope that it would prevent them from losing the next Ryan Giggs to Manchester United.
City, who have unearthed just one locally born prospect in the Premier League era, have spent three years examining 30 of the world's finest sporting facilities and have incorporated the best ideas into a spectacular facility on a reclaimed, 80-acre former factory site which will be linked to the Etihad Stadium by a bridge. Having spent their way into Champions League football, City now face the far tougher challenge of persuading the best local youngsters to choose them over United.
"It is one thing building with bricks and mortar, it is another being able to develop young players," said Brian Marwood, the club's chief football operations officer.
Though City's illustrious Platt Lane academy, which will be relocated to the new training facility, helped them clinch the FA Youth Cup in 2006, Marwood admitted the only local talent unearthed by the club in the last decade is Nedum Onuoha, born in Nigeria though raised locally, now on the fringes of the side. United can now boast Danny Welbeck as the latest in a line of young Mancunians including Gary Neville, Nicky Butt and Wes Brown.
It was United's lustre which famously also persuaded a young Ryan Wilson – later Giggs – to sign for them, even though he had been spotted by City scout Dennis Schofield and signed for City's School of Excellence.
Marwood spoke publicly for the first time about City's departing chief executive, Garry Cook, at a presentation where it was announced that City would be seeking planning permission for the vast training complex. "Yes, I'm sad," admitted Marwood. "No, [it is not a good time to lose your chief executive] but we are all moving on and as the chairman [Khaldoon al-Mubarak] said last week, Garry has done a tremendous amount for this club. I'm personally saddened because everyone is aware of the relationship I had with him but we have to move on."
City must persuade Uefa that their £400m sponsorship deal with Abu Dhabi airline Etihad is not deliberately inflated, to enable City's losses to fall within financial fair play rules.Reuse content