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LGFOX Posted on 13/02/2020 16:59
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From the Athletic

Only spent £50M on their training centre.


Jurgen Klopp’s fingerprints are all over Liverpool’s stunning new £50 million training complex.

A paddle tennis court has been built outside for his fiercely-contested pre-training session battles with assistant manager Pep Lijnders. It sits next to three newly-laid GrassMaster hybrid pitches and a special goalkeeping working area.

Inside the state-of-the-art facility in Kirkby, eight miles from Liverpool city centre, the attention to detail is typical of the man who has restored the club to the pinnacle of European football and put them on the brink of a first league title for 30 years.

Klopp was at the heart of the discussions with London-based architects KSS after the decision was taken in 2017 to leave their historic Melwood base in the West Derby area of the city and expand the academy site to incorporate the first-team set-up.

His vision for the future has been backed to the hilt by owners Fenway Sports Group. Klopp has described their commitment as “a big statement”.

“Our long-term approach to investing and growing this club is as important off the pitch as it is on it,” chairman Tom Werner tells The Athletic. “There has always been an aspiration to build a world-class training facility that becomes an elite performance centre where young players have a clear pathway to the first team.

“The strategic benefits of this new approach will not only be for today’s players and staff but for future generations of talented Liverpool footballers and coaches.

“We are excited that this vision is now taking shape. We are appreciative of all the input we received from Jurgen, his staff and the players. And we are proud to be part of another significant milestone in this club’s extraordinary history.”

Helped by a relatively mild winter, the work being carried out by contractors McLaughlin and Harvey is bang on track with Klopp’s players set to walk through the doors for the first time when pre-season training starts in early July.

They will be greeted by artwork celebrating legendary Liverpool figures and a mosaic of a packed Kop emblazoned with the words ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’. It’s there to remind them of the history of the club they represent.



The new 9,200 sq m training complex will house both the first-team and the under-23s squads, with the younger age groups remaining on the other side of the site which was initially opened in 1998.

The building includes two gyms, a large indoor sports hall, swimming pool, an extensive hydrotherapy complex, specialist sports rehabilitation and medical suites as well as relaxation and dining areas. There are also dedicated TV studios, press conference facilities and an array of offices with balconies overlooking the pitches.

FSG principal owner John W Henry and his wife Linda Pizzuti were recently given a tour to see how it’s all coming together and told staff they were “blown away” by the progress.

It has been designed, at Klopp’s request, so the youngsters in the development squad don’t automatically have access to the designated first-team areas. The manager wants them to have to earn the right to be allowed into that side of the building. That is the next step they have to take through hard graft.

Sporting director Michael Edwards, academy director Alex Inglethorpe and Lijnders also had a considerable amount of input in the design, along with senior players including captain Jordan Henderson and vice-captain James Milner. Liverpool went on a fact-finding mission to a number of European clubs to assess their facilities, including Red Bull Salzburg’s acclaimed training complex.

The huge first-team gym in Kirkby has been designed so it’s bathed in natural light with the glass front providing panoramic views of the training pitches – providing a source of motivation for those on the comeback trail after injury.

Klopp has also ensured that bases for nutrition and sports psychology are embedded in the middle of the building rather than being on the fringes. It’s a pointer to how highly he regards the importance of those departments and their location in the new set-up will ram home that message to his players.

Mona Nemmer has been the club’s head of nutrition since she joined from Bayern Munich in 2016 and is a popular figure with the players. Klopp brought sports psychologist Lee Richardson on board last summer and he’s been based at Melwood for three days a week this season. The former Watford, Blackburn Rovers and Aberdeen midfielder was recruited from Hull City by Liverpool’s medical rehabilitation and performance manager Phil Jacobsen.

Klopp has always viewed the amalgamation of the club’s two training bases as key to his long-term vision. The six-mile gap between Melwood and Kirkby has been a source of frustration for him since he took over in October 2015.

“Melwood is a really great place, historic, I love it. The problem is we are really separated,” he says. “It’s not far from Melwood to Kirkby but it’s too far. I really love Melwood but football changes. Sometimes you have to set standards. It’s really good that our owners give us the opportunity to make this big step. Twenty-five years ago, Melwood set the level. In those 25 years, a lot of things happened.

“Bringing the academy and the first team together is one point, but it’s also about improving a lot of things that we can’t improve here. It will only be good for the future of the club. I really believe that infrastructure keeps responsibility up.”

The German coach has a strong relationship with Inglethorpe. The shared values and principles was underlined by the impressive manner in which the club’s talented youngsters stepped up to beat Shrewsbury Town last week to put Liverpool in the last 16 of the FA Cup.

However, Klopp can’t wait to be closer to all of the 170 academy youngsters who are looking to make the grade and the staff working to help them. When there’s a gap in his schedule, he wants to be able to take a short walk to watch one of the youth teams in action. He wants those kids to be inspired by the sight of Sadio Mane, Virgil van Dijk and co working nearby.

Vitor Matos, the elite development coach, is currently the key link between Melwood and Kirkby. He is responsible for the movement of players between the sites depending on what numbers are required for first-team sessions. Logistically, this will be a great deal easier come July.

“It’s very exciting,” says Inglethorpe, who has had the perfect view of the building taking shape from his office window. “It has unfolded in front of our eyes and it’s very impressive. The under-23s will be based there and it will be an aspirational vision for all the young players. Having the first-team staff so close will be really helpful for us. It’s been very cleverly thought through and designed.”

Melwood has been home for Liverpool since the 1950s and leaving their iconic base this summer hasn’t been without controversy.

The land was sold for around £10 million last August to affordable-housing provider Torus, with planning permission secured to build 160 homes. That was a disappointment to the local residents and councillors behind the ‘Save Melwood’ campaign, who had been campaigning for the facilities to be kept open for community use. Instead the bulldozers will move in.

Liverpool’s chief operating officer Andy Hughes insists the club will leave “with a heavy heart” but says that “all funds from the sale of the Melwood site will be reinvested back into the first-team squad and the state-of-the-art training centre at the new Kirkby site”.

Whereas Anfield’s new Main Stand, which was opened in 2016, was financed by a £110 million loan taken out by FSG in America, the money for the training ground has come from Liverpool’s own credit facility – a sign of much greater financial health. Liverpool use three banks – Royal Bank of Scotland, Bank of America and SunTrust Bank.

The same funding approach will be adopted when it comes to rebuilding the Anfield Road end of the stadium if planning permission is granted for the £60 million scheme to boost capacity to around 61,000. The second stage of the public consultation is about to get underway with plans revised to enable the road behind the stand to remain open after feedback from residents.

Financial accounts for last season are due to be published before the end of February with record revenues expected on the back of the club’s lucrative Champions League triumph. Werner has previously pointed to the success of Liverpool’s commercial team under Billy Hogan as key to being able to improve the club’s infrastructure.

“We’ve had double-digit growth under Billy’s leadership. It’s very important to us as, among other things, that has enabled us to invest in our squad and invest in Kirkby,” Werner adds.

Liverpool are open to the idea of agreeing a naming rights deal for the new training complex similar to the one Manchester United have with insurance company Aon. However, Anfield officials are keen to stress it would need to be the right partner and that no agreement is currently close.

Klopp has long since felt constrained by a lack of space at Melwood. There is a shortage of meeting rooms and offices, while the indoor training facility is small and dated. With the staffing levels in elite football in the modern era, Liverpool have effectively outgrown the place.

Another attraction for Klopp in moving to Kirkby is how secluded it is. That should help prevent team information from leaking out. Currently, fans desperate to catch a glimpse of their heroes use bins, cars or ladders to look over the walls of Melwood and watch training, although the use of a privacy curtain around the main pitch has enabled Klopp to keep his matchday plans under wraps to a much greater degree.

Liverpool bought 14 acres of land from Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council for £160,000 in February 2018 in order to boost the size of the academy site in Kirkby to 60 acres. Construction work started seven months later. As part of the deal, the club has made a significant investment in improving sports facilities for the local community by redeveloping the Eddie McArdle football pitches and building new changing rooms.



Klopp was initially concerned about how exposed the academy is to the elements and in particular how the wind – something he describes as “the biggest enemy of football” – would affect his training sessions. But Liverpool commissioned a study to help solve that problem. The use of computer simulations helped them to define exactly what work was required to provide maximum protection from the effects of the wind.

The project has included extensive landscaping on the perimeters of the three pitches and the planting of dozens of trees to ensure that Klopp’s men aren’t blown off course.

Architects KSS specialise in major sports venues and training facilities. As well as Anfield’s Main Stand, they previously worked on Stamford Bridge, Twickenham, the No 1 Court at Wimbledon and Tottenham Hotspur’s new stadium. They have also designed new training complexes for Tottenham and Leicester City among others.

The framework for the new building in Kirkby was constructed using 2,000 pieces of steel weighing 520 tonnes and involved 144 timber beams being lowered into place.

KSS chairman David Keirle says: “Our designs reflect the identity and ambition of Liverpool FC. They provide a clear, aspirational pathway to the first team, whilst retaining the requirement for each player to earn the right to progress to every level.”

Saying goodbye to Melwood at the end of the season will be laced with emotion. Bill Shankly transformed the place in the 1960s and Gerard Houllier brought it into the 21st century with the work he oversaw. It holds a stack of memories.

However, Klopp has always been more interested in the future than the past. Having penned a new contract until 2024, the new training complex will be part of his legacy.

Excelling on the field, Liverpool will have surroundings in keeping with their lofty status.

Their sparkling new Kirkby base is a home fit for the Premier League champions.
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sixthswan Posted on 14/02/2020 09:22
Tight àrsed Scallies
Edited On: 14/02/2020 09:24
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The future is blue.
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