Liverpool launch football academy

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Liverpool yesterday launched Britain's first club-based football academy as their Merseyside rivals, Everton, contemplated leaving Goodison Park.

While Everton are considering plans to relocate to a new stadium, leaving the home they have had since 1892, Liverpool are following in the footsteps of Ajax and Auxerre, who have both qualified for the quarter-finals of the Champions' Cup.

The Anfield club have bought 55 acres of council land in Kirkby, on which they will build a state of the art facility with 10 pitches and accommodation for players as young as eight years old. Work is due to start in the spring with the doors ready to open at the beginning of the 1998-99 season.

The Liverpool manager, Roy Evans, said: "Although the major input of youngsters will still be drawn from the North-west, the new centre will allow us to develop the best players from all over the world. The importance of this side of the club's activities cannot be overstated. Today is great step forward."

The academy will be under the direct control of the director of youth, Steve Heighway. He said: "If you believe that young players can be nurtured and developed, then you put everything into place to ensure there is nothing to impede that process. I believe the new facility will enable us to do all we possibly can, from recruitment and coaching to the provision of accommodation."

Liverpool's chief executive and vice-chairman, Peter Robinson, said: "We believe it will be vital in the future that the club is able to produce as many of its own players as possible, as a consequence of the Bosman judgement."

The Everton chairman, Peter Johnson, yesterday revealed that his club believes Goodison Park has become outdated in the wake of the Taylor Report.

"Money has been made available to other clubs and so you now see some beautiful stands around," Johnson said. Our problem is that we are very much landlocked and our capacity of 40,000 could well suffer if we made major changes to two of our stands. That would be a problem.

"I'm not at all happy about the facilities we have behind us. I think it has suffered for being so far advanced compared to any other stadium in the past. It really was a beautiful stadium."

Johnson, speaking on Radio 5 Live, added that relocation for the club "is a possibility". "I can see the European league coming. I'm not sure what the structure would be but I do believe that is the direction we will take. And of course, once we get into Europe there is going to be even more television money.

"That is why it is so important to address the stadium issue because when going into Europe I think you will want the big clubs, with the big grounds and the big followings."

Everton, who would encounter stiff opposition to a move from their traditional home from supporters, would probably move to the outskirts of Liverpool alongside the M57.