Football Training Grounds & Facilities

Melwood
By Suckfromthecan (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons

It’s not unusual for football fans to think of little else but the match itself. After all, their week builds up to kick-off and they spend their time discussing who will be in the starting XI and what the scoreline will be. Things aren’t so simple for managers or their backroom staff. They have to work out which players are at full fitness and whether there are any burgeoning partnerships that should be nurtured. Managers need to look at tactics and work on set-pieces and so on.

That’s why most football supporters may not think about training grounds but why managers and players love them to be top-of-the-range. You’ll often hear stories of footballers saying they were impressed at the facilities they saw when they went to discuss a transfer to a club and it’s the training ground their talking about. Much like actors who spend weeks and months in a rehearsal room, so footballers will spend far more time at their club’s training ground than in the stadium itself. But what should we know about them?

List of Football Club Training Grounds

Types of Training Grounds and Facilities

It goes without saying, but football clubs of different standards have different facilities in their training grounds. A League Two side is unlikely to have the same sort of equipment as a Premier League side that consistently qualifies for the Champions League, for example.

This, then, isn’t an all-encompassing look at the sort of thing you’d find in any training ground in the country. Rather it’s an exploration of what the best facilities available would offer. We’re going to have a look at some of the best training grounds in the UK after this, so hopefully you’ve have an idea of what you’d find if you were given a tour of a club’s training facility.

Outdoor Pitches

Self-explanatory, really. Top football club will have a number of outdoor pitches to use for things such as training, practice matches and inter-squad games. Normally the main pitch will be the same size as the pitch at the club’s home ground. As we’ve explained elsewhere, not all football pitches are the same size. That’s why some clubs opt to have a pitch that is adaptable so they can change the pitch markings to match those of the team they’ll be playing against next.

Old Trafford, for example, is longer and wider than the playing surface at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea could adjust the size of the pitch they practice on to ensure that it’s less of a surprise to their players when they run out at the home of the Red Devils. Likewise, United’s staff could potentially make their pitch smaller so their players are used to working in tighter spaces before heading to West London.

As well as outdoor pitches similar to the ones used in the team’s home ground there are also often all-weather pitches. This means that if there’s been heavy rain or snow then training can still take place in the sort of conditions that the footballers can expect to encounter in a match. There’s normally a full-size all-weather pitch and a five-a-side pitch for smaller games.

5-a-side is now a common way of playing football, but when the game was still developing it was virtually unheard of. Training traditionally consisted of fitness work such as road running, not working with the ball. When Bill Shankly took over as Liverpool manager in the 1960s, for example, one of his first decisions was to introduce 5-a-side as a key tenet of his training regime; getting players used to having to run with the ball rather than without it.

Indoor Pitches

indoor pitch
By Gordon Cox / Coxy gj at en.wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

From time to time it is necessary for a club to move their matches or training indoors. More often than not this is due to severe weather problems, though it’s also not unheard of for a club to do so in order to try and keep their tactics and formations a secret. Essentially everything that applies to the outdoor pitches can also be thought of as being relevant to indoor pitches, including having both full-size and five-a-side variations.

The Gym

As important as the ability to play with the ball is, it’s also crucial for players to be at peak physical condition. Of course ‘peak’ condition is different from one manager to another. Some managers like their players to be able to run and run and never tire, necessary for a high-pressing game. Others like strong footballers who can cope with the more physical side of the game and might ask their players to bulk up. Either way they require the use of a gym to help them do what’s required of them.

Training grounds often feature row upon row of exercise bikes, weight machines, running machines and so on. The ever-evolving nature of technology means not only that fitness experts can choose specific machines for individual players to use but can also monitor their progress precisely. They can tailor workouts for each footballer depending on what they need to work on. A young player might need to bulk up their muscle mass, for example, or an older one may need to do more cardiovascular work.

Swimming Complex

swimming pool
Swimming facilities at Liverpool FC Melwood training ground - By Suckfromthecan (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons

One of the best types of exercise people with injuries can do is swimming. It is an excellent cardiovascular workout but also relieves weight from joints and muscles that have suffered damage. That’s why plenty of football club’s have large swimming complexes. It’s where players returning from injury can do some work in order to ensure they stay in as good a condition as possible without risking damaging an injury any further.

As well as swimming pools some training grounds will also contain a hydrotherapy area. This is often a separate thing from the swimming pool itself and will be used for players who have been injured quite badly and can’t even swim. It is a more gentle re-introduction to various exercises and fitness techniques and can be a crucial part of a player’s recovery back to full fitness.

Player Recovery Centre

Different clubs will have different names for this area, but it’s essentially the physio room for injured players. As useful as swimming and hydrotherapy may be for a footballer’s recovery, there are plenty of things that need to be done in a more scientifically specific manner.

Whilst players will often be sent to hospital for scans on damaged bones, muscles, ligaments and so on, there’s still plenty that can be assessed and worked upon by the physiotherapists and doctors that clubs have on their payroll. Clubs have rehabilitation suites where players’ injuries can be worked upon by specialists.

Other Areas

The above sections are arguably the most important areas within a club’s training ground, but there are other spaces that are fairly common across most clubs in the Football League. Here’s a more condensed look at some of them:

  • Manager’s Office - This is where the club manager goes to figure out his tactics, look at his players and explore any possible transfer targets, amongst other things
  • Common Room - Players need to be able to relax in their downtime. Common areas will often feature the likes of table-tennis tables, dart boards and so on
  • Canteen - Food analysis has changed markedly from the days when players would have a pie and chips for tea! This is where they’ll get their food, normally including specifically tailored plans
  • Opposition Prep - Football clubs have teams whose job is to prepare media and information for the manager and players about opposition teams. They’re normally based in the training ground
  • Meeting Room - An obvious one, but this is where teams will meet to discuss any pressing matters, bringing together the tactical work of the manager and the research of the opposition prep team
  • Washing Facilities - Players’ clothes get dirty, as do their kits and so on. Training grounds tend to have areas for the kit men to clean them all up
  • Boot Room - Anfield had arguably the most famous boot room in world football, though ironically few boots were actually kept in their. It’s where the most important piece of equipment a player wears is looked after and maintained

The Best Training Grounds In World Football

St George's Park
St George's Park, England Training Ground - Anthony Parkes [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

This is obviously a subjective thing, with different clubs wanting different things from their training facilities. Some clubs have invested a significant amount of money in their training areas, however, so there is a general acceptance within the football community that the following are some of the best in the business. Given it’s tricky to rank subjective topics, these are in no particular order.

  • Milanello Sports Centre - AC Milan’s training facilities have been in operation since 1963 and is spread across 160,000 square metres
  • De Toekomst - Just across the road from Amsterdam ArenA is Ajax’s training centre. Building began in 1993 and it opened in 1996 with a name that means ‘the future’
  • Cobham Training Centre - Since Roman Abramovich bought Chelsea he has spared no expense in making them one of the most competitive teams in the world. Their training ground cost around £20 million to build, but they continue to reap the benefits
  • London Colney - Another London-based training facility, Arsenal’s Colney centre opened in 1999 and designers followed the specific instructions of Arsene Wenger
  • Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper - Named after the Swiss national who helped to found the club, Barcelona’s training centre opened in 2009 as a replacement for La Masia. Costing around £60 million, it’s as state-of-the-art as it’s possible to get
  • The Aon Training Complex - Formerly known as Carrington but having its name changed as a result of a £120 million sponsorship deal, Manchester United’s training ground has an incredible fourteen pitches within its 108 aces
  • City Football Academy - Manchester United’s neighbours have coped the Roman Abramovich method of spending as much money as possible to buy success, including the development of this £200 million training facility. To be fair to the club, this has regenerated a part of the city and along with The Etihad Stadium is known as The Etihad Complex
  • Ciudad Real Madrid - Not to be outdone by their Spanish rivals, Real Madrid City, to use its English translation, contains all of the facilities you’d expect along with Alfredo di Stéfano Stadium. This small stadium is where the Real reserve team play their games
  • USM Finch Farm - Everton’s training ground has been nicknamed The School of Science by the club’s fans. The training ground opened in 2007 and offers ten full-size pitches, a replica of the pitch at Goodison Park and numerous other top-of-the-range facilities
  • St. George’s Park - International sides need a decent training area too and England’s St. George’s Park complex is one of the best in the world. You may not see it transpire on the pitch, but this contains one of football’s best medical facilities