Under the guidance of manager Patrick Vieira, Crystal Palace appear to be taking the next steps in solidifying their Premier League status and raising their playing style to an even higher level. Young players like Eberichi Eze, Michael Olise, and Tyrick Mitchell are leading the latest wave of the Palace youth, while older heads like Wilfried Zaha and club captain Joel Ward continue to have a major influence on the side. How is it that Vieira's side has managed to consistently perform well in England's top flight? Well, their training ground certainly has an influential effect…
In this article, part of our series on training grounds that has already covered sites such as Chelsea's Cobham Training Centre and Manchester United's AON Training Complex, we'll be explaining everything you need to know about the Crystal Palace training ground. We'll tell you the name of the site, the improvements that have been made to it in the last few seasons, and the plans for the future, as well as offering some specific details about the facilities, size, and dimensions available at the Palace training complex.
In recent years, Crystal Palace have developed a name for themselves as a club that's willing to implement innovative ideas. Last year, they introduced an enhanced player aftercare scheme that focused on providing a 3-year programme of practical, educational, and emotional support to players who had been released from the Palace youth ranks. This measure reflected the fact that the South London club is committed to safeguarding its own future and looking after homegrown talent — this is a principle that is also central to the role that their training ground plays in team operations. But what is the name of the place where all this work happens?
Situated on Copers Cope Road in Beckenham, South London (and sometimes referred to by this street name), the Premier League club's ground is simply titled the Crystal Palace Training Centre. Lying to the north of Beckenham in the area of New Beckenham (in the London borough of Bromley), it's about 3 miles from their home ground Selhurst Park, making it easily one of the most conveniently located training facilities in Greater London.
Before moving into the Copers Cope Road site, Crystal Palace trained at a variety of different locations. At one point they used Beckenham Rugby Club, which backed onto Stanhope Recreation Ground. They've also trained at the old London Transport ground in Hawksbrook Lane, as well as the National Sports Centre at Crystal Palace Park. After training on this largely nomadic basis up until the 2000s, it must have been a relief for the team to take over Copers Cope Road as a permanent site. And since then, it's become an impressive base of operations, and also the site of some of English football's best behind-the-scenes training content on social media - check out this viral video asking players to participate in last year's classic 'Doors or Wheels?' debate for a classic example of this.
Crystal Palace's main site for training has undergone serious improvement in recent times. In October 2021, England manager and former Palace defender Gareth Southgate opened the Eagles' brand new £20m Academy redevelopment, described by the club as a facility which will have a "transformative effect on the future of the club and local community". There are a number of features worth noting; the new development, unveiled alongside club chairman Steve Parish, contains six full-size pitches, including an outdoor 3G pitch with floodlighting, a full-size covered indoor 3G training pitch with an in-built sprinkler system, and an outdoor 3G pitch with floodlighting. It also has new classrooms, a lecture room, analysis and meeting rooms, a gym, restaurant and kitchen, all housed within the main building.
This new academy building is a crucial part of Crystal Palace's plans for developing future talent; for a club with the kind of budget they have, creating and selling on young assets is central to a successful business model. According to Southgate, "Crystal Palace have always had a philosophy of producing home-grown players and have a hotbed of talent to choose from in south London." The new facilities are designed to kick on from and further build this reputation.
Player care is also at the heart of Palace's youth system. At the same event, Parish told the press that "We will also be able to offer a comprehensive educational and player care programme, ensuring that even those players who don't make it have an improved set of life choices." This touches on the issue of after care discussed in our guide to the subject.
The final part of the redevelopment plans involved the building of a new state-of-the-art medical rehab and extended gym therapy area, as well as a revamped show pitch stand. This work is yet to be officially unveiled.
In total, the Crystal Palace Training Ground and Academy facility amasses over 50 acres, which considering that it's located within an area of South London that's only a short journey from the centre of the capital, is pretty impressive. While larger training grounds like Cobham or Arsenal's London Colney site are situated further outside the city in order to take advantage of countryside space, the Eagles' training centre is at the heart of the Palace-supporting community of South London.
A multi-million pound training facility that has seen substantial investment over the years, the Crystal Palace training centre has all the basic facilities you'd expect it to have, with 50 parking spaces, lots of changing rooms, office spaces, boardrooms and meeting rooms, and disabled access thorughout the building. But it also contains lots of impressive features that are missing from many of the world's less well-equipped training sites.
There are 6 full-size pitches, with most training sessions taking in place on outdoor grass pitches, but new redevelopments ensuring that when the weather is poor, players can train on indoor 3G surfaces whatever the weather. The new all-weather training facility, a tensile building designed by Collinson architects, was a complex project that used heavy-duty architectural fabric membrane to develop a space that allows players to train in all conditions. There are also loads of other impressive facilities and special touches that are yet to be unveiled, as the Crystal Palace Training Ground is still having some additional work completed as we speak.
Promoted to Category One Academy status in June 2020, the Crystal Palace training ground is one of the best in the country. Yes, it might not be able to live up to the ridiculously impressive specs of newer facilities like the Leicester City Training Centre or Aston Villa's newly-revitalised Bodymoor Heath Training Facility in Warwickshire, but it's still packed with all the key features that allow clubs to compete at the highest level. From state-of-the-art gym equipment to high-tech indoor pitches and large, light, modern canteen buildings, the Crystal Palace Training Centre definitely comes in at the top end if you are to rank all the training locations in the Premier League.
While big improvements have been made to the Crystal Palace Training Centre in recent years, the work isn't over just yet. Recent CGI footage unveiled by the club revealed the plans they've got for further revamping the training ground and developing a greater level of consistency in design across the board. The video underlined the beautiful interior and exterior designs on show; highlights include the new canteen area, office spaces, boardrooms, and state-of-the-art pitches (you can check out that video here). The Crystal Palace FC training ground is set to cement its status as one of the best coaching sites in the country.
In July 2022, a club statement detailed how the organisation's plans for the future also include some work on the stadium (they also cleared up why there had been some delays in the final phase of the Academy redevelopment). One key aspect of the statement was a focus on the so-called Selhurst Park redevelopment project, a £100m stadium refurbishment project of great scale and complexity, which involves working alongside Croydon Council and the Mayor of London's office to make design improvements to the club's home ground Selhurst Park, where they've played since it was opened in 1924, almost a century ago.
Discussing both the Selhurst Park redevelopment and the final phases of the Academy facility work, Steve Parish said: "With all the upheaval and uncertainty brought about by COVID, we have focused on the Academy as well as first-team Training Ground developments. The final wing of the Academy will open early 2023 and it will take the whole facility to extraordinary new levels." Big promises, then… apparently the newly refurbished site will have a giant medical rehab gym and swimming pool complex that will boost the level of physical and medical care the club are able to offer its players.
Supporters shouldn't have too much longer to make, with Parish's June 2022 statement including the line "We very much hope to make significant progress in the coming months". However, given the size of the task, we may be waiting a little longer to see the new-look Selhurst Park and training centre…
Did you enjoy this glimpse into the practicalities of creating a state-of-the-art Premier League training complex that allows players to reach the peak of their powers? Good news - we've got lots of similar guides on the Jobs in Football blog. Why not start by diving into the English Premier League's newest ground, the Leicester City FC Training Centre. Opened towards the end of 2020, it's a phenomenal, high-tech site, in which every little detail has been taken into account. Head here to read our guide.