GALLERY: Inside City's rejuvenated Colney training ground
- Credit: Danielle Booden
The improvements to Norwich City's training ground at Colney have been remarkable in recent years.
Opened in 1995 when the Canaries left their outdated facilities in Trowse, the most notable evolution had been the completion of the academy dome in 2002, with the site gradually growing to meet required standards.
Yet when Stuart Webber arrived as sporting director in April 2017 to spearhead a new regime, plans were soon put in place to revitalise facilities that had fallen behind the times as money flooded into the top levels of English football.
Not so long ago the site was dominated by stacked modular buildings which housed academy dressing rooms, offices, toilet facilities and meeting rooms, which were particularly unwelcoming during the winter months.
The main building which housed the first-team dressing room and offices were of decent standard but a small gym and tired decor didn't make for the most welcoming atmosphere for potential transfer signings.
Arrive at Colney now and it's a very different place that provides the surroundings for players and staff as they pursue the club's Premier League ambitions.
Majority shareholders Delia Smith and Michael Wynn Jones officially opened the new-look Lotus Training Centre on Thursday, with local and national media invited on a tour of the site - led by Webber, in his self-appointed role as official Colney tour guide.
The successful Canaries Bond which raised £5million to allow City to press ahead with the improvements is marked by a wall of over 700 names in the main reception, in recognition of the investors who provided the money required, at a favourable rate of return.
The smart new academy building has dressing rooms on the ground floor and meeting rooms above, with a Subbuteo pitch laid out in one reception area for talking tactics.
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The academy canteen is more basic than the top-of-the-range facilities enjoyed by the first team in the original building and has a more basic menu, purposefully, giving the youngsters another motivation to graduate to the senior ranks.
If plans for the next stage of development get the go-ahead, including a swimming pool as part of a recovery hub, it will be a similar story. Academy players would have limited access to the more luxurious facilities, ensuring they don't get used to the finer things in life too young.
Basic elements are also much improved, such as greenery and flower beds across the site to provide a more welcoming aesthetic for visitors and those spending much of their working life on the site.
Canteen staff grow vegetables and herbs on the allotment which has been created at the end of the first-team training pitch, as part of ambitions to be more environmentally friendly and self-sustainable.
The main pitch is flanked by a small stand that can seat around 150 spectators but it is the pitches away from the main buildings which have seen the biggest changes, with landscaping work removing the slope and vastly improving the drainage, with fencing and floodlights extending the quality of pitches across the site.
A short but steep hill alongside the main pitch is an unwelcome sight for Daniel Farke's players, as it's where they are put through their high-intensity sprints by head of performance Chris Domogalla ahead of the next game, next to a sandpit that is used for injury rehabilitation.
Alongside the outdoor 3G pitches mostly used by the academy is the original academy dome, now starting to show its age in its 20th year and potentially in line for a refurbishment of its own in the years ahead.
Also on the tour are the extensive fitness facilities across two floors in one of the new buildings, featuring motivational messages on the walls, as well as cryotherapy sub-zero recovery chambers and sleep pods outside the main auditorium that is used for first team meetings.
While connecting the new to the old is a hallway across to the senior dressing rooms with the message "our history, our team, our club", featuring the name of every player and manager to ever represent City's first team, as well as a legends wall of notable former Canaries.
With the new building that houses the innovative SoccerBot 360 now sitting between the gym and the academy building, the next evolution of Colney has arrived.
The intention is to ensure that process continues over the years so that the facilities remain of Premier League standard but, as ever, that costs money and will be much easier to achieve the longer that City can remain in the top flight.
- You can see more about the SoccerBot 360 in the video above and view aerial shots of Colney in the video below, filmed earlier this year