Essential Colney redevelopment starts as Norwich City look to secure their academy’s future
- Credit: Sonya Duncan
Norwich City’s academy faces a defining period – and the key protagonists are determined to make it a success.
The latest set of accounts revealed the full extent of the financial pressures at Carrow Road, while a lengthy review of the club’s top-flight academy status brought job losses since the summer – including the departure of club legend Darren Huckerby.
That led to big questions over City’s future intentions for youth development, especially in light of Huddersfield’s decision to close all its age groups below under-18 – the former club of City’s sporting director Stuart Webber and new academy boss Steve Weaver.
Those financial pressures are real. But speaking to us exclusively, Webber and Weaver revealed their thinking over a summer of change at Colney – as well as plans starting in a matter of weeks, to redevelop the temporary buildings that litter City’s training base.
“When I walked in at Colney, first team or academy, it was on a grand scale,” said Weaver. “I just felt if we were going to get together and be part of a group, we needed to be a little bit smaller, a little bit tighter, people working across different ages.
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“And culturally it’s different, because it was an academy and a first team – whereas with Stuart’s model, it’s now very much a seamless one from the first team all the way down to the bottom of the academy.”
For City to maintain their much-prized category one academy status, the need to convert some of their youth dressing rooms into permanent structures – while further redevelopments at Colney will also be required over the coming two years.
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“For a club the size of us Colney needs to be upgraded,” added Weaver. “I know it’s been talked about and there were a few grand designs. The dressing rooms will get started within the next two or three weeks and I’ve just asked if we can build over the top of it and make it into a purpose-built academy building, which has been met with a real level of support from the board.
“We’re hoping to have all the funds in place for the second part of it before the end of the season, so we can hopefully have a purpose-built academy building within 12 months.
“To be fair some of the training grounds up and down the country are palatial. We’re just looking for something that’s purposeful. One the parents, players and ourselves can be proud of. It’s important for us.”
While Webber has first-team matters on his mind and a January transfer window on the horizon, City’s sporting director is not about to let the club’s academy fall through the cracks.
Webber added: “Certainly we’ve got to make a step at Colney. What we can’t do is say we haven’t got any money and give up.
“No, let’s try to do something about it because if we truly believe in youth development, we’ve got to develop facilities to produce the best young players, and develop the staff to produce the best staff. Or else, it doesn’t work.”
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