Mansfield Town’s players are already beginning to feel at home at the brand new £2 million Radford Hymas Academy in Pleasley – and boss David Flitcroft said he was very excited about the future.
The new Woburn Lane training ground had been in the planning for many years and, although it has not yet had an official opening ceremony, players and manager have been using it since just before Christmas.
“I had been waiting for this since I sat down with the chairman and Carolyn and we talked about the job and the reasons why I would leave Swindon,” said Flitcroft.
“Training there for the first time was a brilliant day and one I had been waiting for for a long time.
“I am really excited by it. When I first came here it was just a bit of land that was in the process - no concrete on site and no base in.
“Now we are actually using it and this is why I’ve come.
“The lads have been stimulated by coming here. Their togetherness has certainly grown by coming here.”
Radford and Hymas’ joint company Mansfield Town Developments has supplied £1.5 million to the project, while the company also received a grant of £500,000 from the Premier League and FA Facilities Fund.
The state-of-the-art facility boasts a full-sized floodlit 3G pitch, built to FIFA standards, plus three-full sized grass pitches and a mini-pitch, which will make the facility a hive of activity at weekends.
The pavilion consists of four dressing rooms, showers and associated physio rooms, as well as a function room on the ground floor, which will include kitchen facilities to allow the room to be used by the local community for functions.
“It is fundamental to any football club to develop your own training ground,” said Flitcroft.
“Some people see it as a cost to a club. But it should be seen as an investment.
“We have the 3G pitch here, we will soon have the grass pitches, we have the building. It’s now what we do in it and how we use it.
“It’s how we spend our time teaching people. It’s the teachers, the educators and the coaches that will be in the building and they have got to have a passion to make people better.
“If you get that right and make sure everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet and trying to improve staff and players all the time, then is becomes an investment.
“It allows you to add value to every player, every staff member and every person that wants to come and work for Mansfield Town Football Club.”
He added: “It’s really important everyone has an ambition and a purpose when they go into work.
“I have certainly told my staff what it means to me to support me in this building.
“Anyone who doesn’t come into this place with a purpose to improve I will send home – player or staff member.”
Flitcroft expects everyone using the facility to show high values from cleanliness to respect for neighbours.
“It’s now time for every single person in this football club to step up to the plate – right down to cooking the breakfast,” he said.
“Are we the best we can be? Cooking the meals, keeping the building pristine – absolutely spotless – showing great values running right through whoever works here.
“What the chairman, Steve Hymas and the board have built here is pristine. It is beautiful. It starts with cleanliness and respect.
“We are near a local school, so we have to show respect to the children and parents dropping off.
“All of that is really important to me. We have to get that right and go to the next level of standards.”
Flitcroft said the training ground is a much better base than the One Call Stadium for several reasons.
“The One Call has been fantastic and that is our special place of work where everything has to be maximised to get you three points,” he said.
“But when you are training there every day, does it remain that special, unique place I believe it should be? Or do you get familiar with it?
“At the One Call all your rooms are in different stands which can make things difficult at times. I am not as close to the players there as I want to be. The staff is also fragmented and we only have three quarters of a pitch.
“That isn’t really conducive to development. But the new training ground has been built to connect people.
“It’s a smaller building than the One Call and keeps us closer as a family.”
The manager wants to see respect develop between the different tiers of development.
“We can have the U21s up here so we can get an in-depth knowledge of the players, physically, technically what they can do, tactically what they know and socially, how they interact with people,” he said.
“Social skills are a big thing for me. I want to interact U21 players with the first team and see what respect they have.
“I only have to look back when I was a young player and the first time I got in and around the first team at Preston I rang my old man up that day.
“He came off site and they were all peering over the fence watching us. It had that excitement. I’m not too sure it’s like that any more when playing and training with the first team is almost a given.
“We will try to have that respect level run right through the building and create ambition to want to train with the first team. That’s going to be vital.
“The U21s will start training here on certain days. We will also have opportunities for the U18s to come and train here.”
Flitcroft said he wanted to continue to coach gifted players into adding hard work to their game so improve them.
“Part of my philosophy has always been to develop a technically gifted player,” he said.
“Technically gifted players usually don’t want to work as hard as a more workmanlike player.
“I was a workmanlike player and I loved to come into work every day, but I worked with so many technically gifted players that thought they just had to turn up.
“It’s about taking a technically gifted player and seeing if we can turn him into someone that values hard work, out of possession work, and what some say is the ugly side of the game.
“Not to me. For me that is the beautiful side of the game.
“If someone wants to run for his team mates, himself, his family and our supporters, that to me is the beautiful side of the game.
“It’s about turning a technically gifted player into a Marine. That’s what I pride myself on. We have the opportunity to do that up here.”
He added: “The only thing we have missing up here is a functional gym so we can keep the weights up and the boys strong. We are looking at options for one.
“If you attain high standards with the U18s then you will train with the U21s. If you attain the highest possible standard in the U21s then you be training with the first team.
“The kids we have coming through excite me. But you have to spend time with them.
“This now gives us the chance to get them out on the 3G. It doesn’t matter what the weather is. It can be frosty, it can be lashing down, snowing, it doesn’t matter.”