“No player ever turned us down for our training facilities” – those words from Lee Charnley still haunt me as the ultimate staple of an ownership lacking even the basic principles of ambition or direction.

Perhaps his point had some merit – due to the calibre of player we signed in that era being one which was simply happy to be in the Premier League, or safe in the knowledge they’d get their move to a different club in a few seasons. Although the club facilities had no personal benefit to me as a fan, it’s interesting I still carried some second-hand embarrassment to the thought of us signing a player from Leicester City, or Tottenham Hotspur, and wondering what they must be thinking coming from a world class establishment to our Darsley Park site in Benton, standing unchanged for the best part of 20 years and starting to resemble a retirement home more than a Premier League club facility.

Perhaps I’m being a little harsh, I think it did receive a coat of paint during the Rafa years, and the paddling pool – our very own version of cryotherapy recovery, was upgraded to slightly larger models. So it wasn’t all bad, but the arrival of our new owners couldn’t have come soon enough, it was in fact one of the first things Amanda Staveley talked about after the takeover, her own personal shock of the standards that had been left under Mike Ashley.

Doing my research into club expenditure, it was interesting yet not at all surprising to note, Newcastle United invested less in the ‘10-’20 decade on facilities than any other Premier League club, at a measly £8.3m – for context, Brighton who were promoted behind Newcastle, managed to spend £142M on infrastructure in the same time period.

Looking further ahead to clubs we wish to compete with, Manchester City invested £372.9M, and Spurs, although largely down to their new stadium, £1.48B.

The lack of management and care for the facilities showed a direct lack of understanding of the sport. It’s not a coincidence the squad always seemed to be on the brink of an injury crisis – a lot being non-contact muscle injuries.

Always labeled by previous managers as just “bad luck” – it’s never really as simple as that in elite sport. Better facilities, more physio and medical staff, could be that fine margin between a player completing 90’ minutes or pulling their hamstring on 85’.

This is top level sport where every margin and detail matters. The training ground – much like our academy – has been incredibly neglected and stifling for club growth, and overall club value. Genuinely the biggest excitements the takeover gave me, was the thought of seeing those 3D rendered mock ups of a new complex.

Yes, even before the thought of Mbappe signing for us.

You can imagine my delight when I saw the recent planning applications to add some vital components to the current training ground. A state of the art kitchen to produce fresh and nutritious meals, dedicated doctor and physio rooms, as well as a tactical meeting room. All hoping to be ready for the start of pre-season. All features that ultimately can have an impact on results.

Keeping players healthier and happier can only lead to an accumulation of more points. We’ve seen what an uplift in atmosphere and dressing room harmony can produce in this second half of a season alone.

The decision to upgrade the current Benton site is a stop-gap measure for the years before a new complex is built, yet it shows me the kind of ambition I’ve always desired the club to have.

The owners want improvements and they’re not waiting long to put the foundations of change in place. We have to take the same mindset into our thinking with the Academy – also underinvested and struggling at youth level.

For a region described as a hot bed of football, the amount of talent produced has been shockingly low. Only Paul Dummett and Sean Longstaff in the current squad of 25 came through the academy – and with the clubs lofty ambitions going forward, it has to be developing more.

Premier League and particularly UEFA registration requirements require a considerable amount of home grown talent – some of which need to be ‘trained at the current club’. If these players happen to be of high quality, it gives a massive advantage compared to clubs that don’t have that strong home grown pool to select from.

The end result of this investment hopefully concludes with producing our own version of a Phil Foden, a player with a market value of £80M that cost £0M in transfer fees. That is what long term investment in facilities and academy can do, the payoff is worth more than the outlay.

Our U18’s were recently beaten 13-0 by Manchester City – maybe that can be the measuring stick for Improvement in the decade to come, I want to see us at the top of PL2, producing Champions League quality players, that’s ultimately the cheat code for avoiding Financial Fair Play and the most satisfying way to build a football club.

CM Dell – @agbnufc_