In recent years, the way Southampton have operated beyond their means to compete admirably in the Premier League has been impressive. While the club's budget is nothing in comparison to the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea, clever player recruitment and calculated risk-taking in coaching has led to successful results on the pitch.
There's one location that's been central to all club operations, and that's somewhere that most casual fans don't get much of an insight into: the training ground. Southampton benefits from having a top-level academy that has produced talents such as Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Luke Shaw, and many more, and the Southampton training ground plays a crucial role in this process, as you'd expect.
In this article, we'll be giving you all the basic information you need to know about the Southampton training ground and how it allows the club to operate at a high level. We'll tell you the name of the site, how long it's been there, and the facilities it has, as well as bringing into the mix any relevant news on refurbishment and redevelopment projects and plans for the site. Let's get into it.
Based in Marchwood, Hampshire, the Southampton training ground opened in the mid-1980s, an incredibly successful decade for Southampton that saw the club finish a record 2nd in the top flight, runners-up only to Liverpool. It's been the club's home ever since, playing a role in some exciting times, as top talents like Alan Shearer, Matt Le Tessier, and more recently the likes of Virgil Van Djik and Sadio Mane, have passed through the club. But what's the name of the Southampton training ground?
The site originally started out life as Road-Sea-Park, with the land originally owned by former Southern League club Road-Sea Southampton. However, it wasn't too long before it started to become known as Staplewood, or officially speaking, the Staplewood Campus.
Situated on Long Lane, Marchwood, SO40 4WR, the Staplewood Campus is sat just on the outskirts of the New Forest, just over the Solent estuary from St. Mary's Stadium, about an 8-mile drive from the Saints' home ground. The campus is a state-of-the-art facility built to house the Men's and Women's teams, as well as all Academy sides. Soon, we'll dive into the features that make this location the well-known site that it is. We'll start off by looking at the recent improvements that have been made to Staplewood.
The transformation that has taken place at the training centre over the past 15-20 years has been pretty remarkable. A dilapidated old building has been reshaped and brought up to scratch using innovative thinking and advanced technology. Cricket pavilions, tiny dressing rooms and a main building that had nowhere near enough space to house the first-team and various reverse and youth teams have been replaced by the impressive new Markus Liebherr Pavilion, a building that sits at the heart of the club's forward-thinking plans. Named after the club's late owner, the Markus Liebherr Pavilion was opened in 2014, after five years of work. It represented the crowning glory of an exciting period that saw Southampton competing in Europe and generating incredible footballing talents.
The training centre was designed to further boost the reputation Southampton carry for producing excellent young players. Discussing the new build, Head of Football Development Les Reed stated, “It has been very important that we designed a facility that works, that met our needs, we talk a lot about our pathway to the first-team for young players coming through the system so we designed a facility that reflected those aspirations.”
Built by AFL Architects, who were also responsible for the main building at Chelsea's famous Cobham Training Centre, the state-of-the-art main building is there for Southampton's first team and Academy teams, with the design supposed to provide an aspirational environment that encourages integration between teams and upward progress for the younger players. Inside the development, there is an advanced recovery suite that incorporates rehabilitation and treatment facilities, medical areas and a hydrotherapy pool. On top of that, there's also a gym, a lecture theatre for functions, seminars and briefings to the press, plus office accommodation, changing rooms and dining/lounge areas. Evidently, pretty much everything has been considered here.
There's plenty more we can tell you about the new main facility at the Staplewood Campus, and we plan to do so in the next section of this article, where we'll flesh out the training site's facilities, size, and dimensions in some greater detail.
The Staplewood Campus, also known as the Staplewood Football Development & Support Centre, is equipped with some seriously impressive features; sports science, scouting and recruitment facilities are supplemented by extensive football administration and medical departments, plus of course training, changing, and dining facilities. Costing around £40 million, the new training facility is something the club is incredibly proud of.
In terms of size, the Staplewood Campus is a pretty standard Premier League level training ground. The land it uses is around 42 acres in total, making it smaller than sites like Manchester United's Carrington but larger than that of slightly less established Prem sides like Brentford. However, it certainly seems as though the features housed within the grounds of Staplewood are on the top end of the sporting spectrum, the envy of less well-equipped clubs.
In total, there are nine full-sized training pitches at the Southampton training centre, two of which are used consistently by the first team (the one next to the pavilion is built to replicate the turf and dimensions of St. Mary's Stadium). Inside an enormous separated dome, there's an artificial pitch that's used by the youth teams, but generally not by the first team. According to midfielder Nathan Redmond, this is due to the increased physicality of the senior game, which leads to artificial turfs increasing the risk of injury.
In the new Markus Liebherr Pavilion, the medical facilities are some of the standout features. According to Mo Gimpel, Sports Medicine and Science Manager, "Our medical facility challenges the norm. You won't find another one like it in this country, not in professional sport." The pool is split-level, and it runs opposite to a traditional pool, meaning that players have a deep length and a shallow length, allowing for deep water running and various other hydrotherapy exercises. Elsewhere in the new pavilion, the 'Blackbox' is a unique high-tech feature based around challenging perception; a video tool that offers in-depth player analysis, it's used by players to feed back performances, and it also functions as a valuable recruitment tool. These kinds of innovative designs can be seen at many different clubs these days - another good example is the well-regarded SoccerBox feature at Norwich City's Lotus Training Centre.
Natural unfinished timber cladding aids a contemporary architectural style, with timber cladding extending across the windows to give more privacy and shading. In addition, this timber is oriented vertically to create stylish, gently sloping rooflines. At the heart of the design is a consideration for the rural natural environment — the landscaping around the main building has large architectural hedges built to help screen parking areas and frame the lawned areas and hardstanding at the entrance. There's a shallow reflecting pool lined with dark natural stone in front of the building, with a paved bridge leading across it to the entrance. Meanwhile, in the gym, quotes like "Strength lies in unity" and "Train hard, fight easy" line the walls, providing inspiration for the players lifting weights and performing other exercises inside.
It's fair to say that the Staplewood Campus is one of the best training grounds in the country. And when you think about the calibre of players that Southampton have helped produce during the past couple of decades - the likes of Gareth Bale, Adam Lallana and Luke Shaw, to name a few - it's hardly surprising. They must be doing something right…
Some fans of clubs such as Manchester United and West Ham have been vocal in their criticism of the lack of funds invested into improving and updating their training facilities as the game continually modernises. For Southampton supporters, while Premier League survival is often in the balance, at least this doesn't appear to be an issue. Whatever state the club find themselves in, they can rely on a strong training facility that provides top-level care, support, coaching, and education to players of all ages.
After opening the Markus Liebherr Pavilion in 2014, Southampton began Phase 2 of their development, which has focused on improving the Academy Village, ultimately transferring the Academy's world-class education delivery from portacabins to a permanent facility. Improvements to the academy facilities are ongoing, however; it will be interesting to see how the tools on offer to the club's youth team continue to be enhanced as the years roll on.
The gym is one part of the facility that Saints are currently redeveloping, with their current gymnasium lacking the size offered at some Premier League rivals. The proposed new gym is set to treble in size from 150sqm to 450sqm, and there will be additional ancillary facilities directly linked to the First Team changing facilities at the pavilion. According to a club statement, "the application proposes a new single-storey building located in the car parking area to the north west of the pavilion."
A contract was recently secured with Hampshire-based firm Brymor Group Southern, a leading independent construction who will be tasked with building the new state-of-the-art gym. With lots of improvements made to the broader Staplewood Campus in recent years, this facility is the club's focus for now, but given the innovative nature of the staff and management there, don't be surprised to see more work floated as a possibility going forward.
If you want to find out more about other top training grounds across the country, you're in the right place. We'd recommend starting by taking a leap up north from the south coast and finding out all about the brand-new Leicester City FC Training Centre, a whopping 185-acre site to rival pretty much any training facility in the world.