Rovers officials hope to have opened the doors to an influx of future first team talent after unveiling a new state-of-the-art facility at the club’s Senior Training Centre.
The all-weather artificial pitch, which is located at the entrance to Brockhall Village, was officially opened this week and is set to play a major role in the development of Rovers’ rising stars.
The 3G synthetic surface, which comes complete with a ball-stop fence, spectator area and floodlights, will be a great asset to the Academy, as it will create extra contact time with the club’s young players.
It will also help in Rovers’ quest to secure Category 1 status, as this is one of the mandatory requirements in the new Elite Player Performance Plan that has been put in place by the Premier League.
Rovers’ Academy manager Phil Cannon said: “When I first came to the club I asked what the biggest need was and I was told an artificial pitch, so I said let's work towards that and I was told that we wouldn't get it. But fair play to the owners, they have invested heavily in the Academy, for the future of the club, so let's hope that it bears fruit with more players coming through.
"The aim is for us to use it 24-7. With the new categorisation of the Academies, they are asking us to get kids out of school from the age of nine right through, so without this facility, especially if we have poor weather, they wouldn't have anything to do all day.
"The more minutes you get with the boys, the better the players will be. You aren't going to get a bad bounce on this surface, it is going to be consistent and that will give the boys confidence at an early age on their technique. Being able to play football on a surface like this will allow us to produce technically better players."
Rovers’ head groundsman Steve Patrick said: “I'm very proud. There's a lot of hard work gone into it, in inclement weather conditions as everybody knows, but it has been achieved and full credit to the lads involved. It has been a team effort and we have all done really well.
"It is the latest technology, it is the nearest you can get to turf, we can use it all the time and hopefully we'll be producing one or two lads that will help pay for it. It is a massive step forward for us.”
Rovers’ managing director Derek Shaw added: “It is a wonderful facility, which will be very important for the football club and the Academy, and our plans to get Category 1 status in the EPPP. All credit must go to the owners for funding this project. Without their investment we wouldn't have this.”
Caption: Simon Hall (Bernhard's Sports Surfaces), Craig Faulkner (groundsman), Phil Cannon (Academy manager), Steve Patrick (head groundsman), Mark Harbridge (Professional Sportsturf Design) and Derek Shaw (Rovers’ managing director).