Craig Salmon’s Preston North End Press View: Training ground move could be dawn of a new era
Officially nothing has been confirmed, but the worst kept secret is out – Preston will become the new owners of Wigan Athletic’s training ground complex at Euxton.
North End have remained silent on the whole affair this week – no doubt due to legal issues – but at some point in the not-too-distant future, they will take control of the site after paying a reported £1.6m.
I guess only a few months ago, there was no prospect of North End having a Premier League-standard training ground any time soon.
It has been a long-time goal of the club to upgrade its training facilities and bring them into the 21st century.
The club’s current base at Springfield Sports ground, in Dodney Drive, Lea, is adequate but has become tired and dated, with space constraints preventing it being redeveloped to modern-day standards and requirements for a club wishing to compete at the highest level of English football.
Indeed the building block which houses the dressing rooms, gym, canteen and offices at Springfields belongs to a period of time from around 40 or 50 years ago.
The club have looked into redeveloping Springfields but feasibility studies have concluded the land is tightly constrained by Savick Brook to the north and residential dwellings to the south.
Springfields itself is within a flood zone and neighbouring land also carries similar flood risks.
It was back in 2017 that North End submitted plans to create a state-of-the-art purpose-built 25 acre training ground facility, along with a housing development, at the former Ingol Golf Club site, which closed in 2010.
The land is owned by PNE owner Trevor Hemmings and the ambitious plans would have seen four pitches created and a contemporary building to cater for the every need of the modern footballer.
Unfortunately, those proposals have yet to get off the ground, and indeed earlier this year, North End submitted plans to build a two-storey building at Springfields and demolish part of the existing structure in a move described as an ‘interim solution’.
However, the landscape changed last month with the shock news that Wigan had been placed into administration and thus had to start selling many of their assets to pay off debts.
At the beginning of August, North End were linked with a move for Euxton and as time has gone on, it has become clear that purchasing the site was a no-brainer for the club.
Ideally located in the village north west of Chorley, the training ground boasts three pitches and building facilities fit to accommodate a first-team football squad competing in the Premier League.
Training facilities are very important in the modern day and can be pivotal to attracting a higher quality of player.
If the plans for the Ingol site are anything to go by, once Euxton is purchased, North End will retain their ownership of Springfields and use it as the base for its senior academy teams.
Currently North End hold category-three academy status and it will be interesting to see if the purchase will ultimately see the club move to category-two status and beyond that.
Meanwhile, the news that striker David Nugent has been told he can look for another club has probably not come as a great surprise.
Whether blinded by nostalgia, supporters heralded his arrival last summer.
Nugent’s first spell as a PNE player is still fondly remembered and why wouldn’t it be? It was at Deepdale where he made his name as a youngster, notching 33 goals at Championship level between 2005 and 2007.
He even appeared and scored in an England shirt while still a Lilywhites player.
His goal albeit from a few inches out against Andorra, is arguably one of – if not the – highlight of his career.
Nugent was always going to get plucked from North End’s reaches and he was duly signed by Premier League Portsmouth for a whopping £6m.
Not a bad profit for PNE, who had paid Bury £100,000 for his services. It’s fair to say, Nugent has gone on to enjoy a fine career.
His four-year stint at Leicester City was where he enjoyed his best spell, helping the club lift the Championship title in 2014 before playing a part as they maintained their place in the Premier League the year after.
His goalscoring record with the Foxes was respectable – around one goal in every three appearances, but there had been signs that his powers had begun to wane.
A short spell at Middlesbrough which saw him score nine goals was followed by a £2.5m transfer to Derby County in January 2017.
However, he only found the back of the net on 17 occasions in a two-and-a-half years spell with the Rams.
It was hoped that Nugent’s experience would come in handy at Deepdale, especially with the youthful make-up of Alex Neil’s squad.
But unfortunately, things did not quite work out last season and Nugent made only 11 Championship starts, scoring one goal.
It will be interesting to see where his next move is.