Revamped Euxton training ground now feels like Preston North End's new home

Ahead of Preston North End moving to their new training ground at Euxton, Dave Seddon went along for a sneak preview of where Alex Neil and his players will do their work

Saturday, 17th October 2020, 12:30 pm
The pitches at Preston's new Euxton training ground

There are many striking aspects which catch the eye on the tour of Preston North End’s new training base at Euxton.

One of them is not to do with the football and fitness side of things, it’s part of the social set-up for some fun and relaxation after training.

In the lounge area next to the canteen stands a full sized snooker table, complete with brand new green baize and overhead lighting.

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The dressing rooms at Euxton

Not that you’ll find Alex Neil picking up a cue and attempting a 147-break.

“I’m more of a pool man, I’m too small to properly reach the middle of the snooker table,” said Neil with a chuckle.

The PNE boss hasn’t been forgotten, next to the snooker table is a pool table.

On the wall nearby is a dart board, a game of arrows popular for many seasons with the North End squad.

Paul Gallagher is the expert dart player, lining up his darts with the same precision he does a free-kick on the football pitch.

While the players have moved to Euxton to work hard on the training pitches outside, a few activities for after the sessions doesn’t do any harm.

Neil said: “The training ground in terms of the social side for players is a much better space.

“It will allow the lads to socialise more, stay a bit longer.

“That is a big upgrade and I think it’s important.”

There was a real sense of pride in club secretary Ben Rhodes’ voice and manner as he gave the media a guided tour of Euxton the day before the PNE squad moved in.

There’s every reason to be proud, with the facility of the highest standards, inside and out.

From the main road which runs past, there is little to see.

A long brick wall hides the single storey building from view, the entrance easy to miss.

But once you drive up the narrow road and into the carpark, you start to get a sense of how impressive the venue is.

It is painted white and the main outside wall carries the Preston North End crest.

They are the third club to occupy the site, Bolton having developed it during their Premier League days, before financial problems saw them sell it to Wigan Athletic.

Similar money woes led to Wigan plunging into administration in July, their administrators selling it to North End in September for a bargain £1.6m.

‘Opportunistic’ was the word Peter Ridsdale used to describe the purchase.

They had offered more to buy it in 2016 when Bolton were selling, only for Wigan to outbid them.

PNE didn’t stop at £1.6m after completing the purchase, the spending on sprucing up Euxton taking the spend above £2m.

Every room has had some attention given to it, whether that be in the shape of new equipment, a coat of paint or new lighting.

The main thing for the players are the three pitches outside, the playing surfaces looking so good they almost invite you to go and have a kick-about.

Pitch one has undersoil heating in case of a cold snap – there’s little chance of the weather stopping play.

Next to that pitch is an area for the goalkeepers to practice on.

A row of conifers keeps the wind off that area, while it is Desso fibre underfoot for Declan Rudd, Connor Ripley and Mathew Hudson.

Ridsdale, advisor to and representative of North End owner Trevor Hemmings, is now based at Euxton, as are many of the PNE finance and admin staff.

“We have invested quite significantly in making the facility right for us,” said Ridsdale.

“If you had come in the day we said we would buy it and then saw it now, you wouldn’t have thought it was the same place.

“Mr Hemmings has made a lot of the people who work for Northern Trust available, together with our in-house maintenance team.

“This has given us the opportunity to put the day-to-day non-football side of the business – the club secretary, media, myself – on the same site which helps communication.”

The change from the day of purchase to moving in, impressed Neil.

Ridsdale said: “We walked Alex around it when we first bought it.

“It was very tired and lacked a bit of investment.

“When he came back ahead of moving in, Alex couldn’t believe what we had done with the place.

“It delivers a lot of things we promised him when he first arrived at the club.

“When he agreed to join us we had talked about the facilities. He is justifiably proud and pleased.

“A lot of work was done in the dressing rooms, the lockers looked unloved and were missing handles,.

“All the gym equipment is brand new, the medical rooms have been redesigned and shaped to suit what we need.

“There isn’t a room which has remained untouched, we went from one end of the building to the other.

“The pitches have been given love and attention, the car park which was rutted has been completely tarmaced from the main road which is not cheap.

“Had we built this from scratch, I think we would be valuing it around £10m.”

Preston N moving to Euxton doesn’t mean their former Springfields training ground will stand empty.

Soon it will be occupied by PNE’s youth team, the first and second year scholars hoping to make their way in the game.

Peter Ridsdale said: “There is a bit of work to do first to make two dressing rooms and shower areas for when they have competitive matches there.

“Nick Harrison the academy manager is very pleased to have got the opportunity to move the scholars there.

“The playing surface on the main pitch at Springfield is exactly the same as Deepdale.

“We spent a lot of money on upgrading it a couple of years ago.”