WHEN Tom Heaton and his international colleagues at Burnley return from duty next week they will walk into the Clarets’ new £10.6million training centre at Gawthorpe.

The complex has been a year in the making and the club have spent this week gradually moving from the existing facilities across the river to the new, purpose-built Barnfield Training Centre.


It’s the latest sign of the club’s growing stature and ambition.

Clarets captain Heaton described the existing Gawthorpe base as ‘functional’, but the new facility screams Premier League and boss Sean Dyche believes an upgrade was a ‘necessity’.

Heaton played his part in the redevelopment, helping with some of the touches the players wanted to see in the changing rooms and the lounge areas as well as co-ordinating a seating plan, but he has stayed away for the last six weeks and is looking forward to seeing the finished article next week.

“It looks fantastic. I went in about six weeks ago and it looked top drawer. I’ve left it since then because I want to open the door and be wowed by it,” the 30-year-old said.

“I’m really looking forward to moving into it. I think it’s a great marker to see how far the club has come and the ambition it shows. It looks the part and we’ll make the most of it when we’re in there.”

There were some plans for a new training centre when Dyche arrived at the club in October 2012, but promotion to the Premier League in his first season in charge accelerated the scheme and size of the development.

“I think it was a necessity," said the Clarets chief. "When I got here one of the first things I asked was ‘where’s the Premier League stuff?’.

"Not the money but what it brings and there wasn’t really anything. So I said that’s got to change. That was my first board meeting.

“I didn’t know that one and a bit years later we’d be in the Premier League. But I was saying we’ve got to start building things that mean something.

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“To be fair to the board there were some ideas and plans for a training ground, but it would have been built around the existing building and then improvements to surfaces and stuff. A lot lower key.

“The Premier League brought a lot of the plans that we’d spoken about, and I suggested, to life.

"Now that it’s done and we’re back in the Premier League everyone says it’s a masterstroke, but it’s not quite that easy.

“The planning and the process, and the idea of building the club not just on the pitch but off it will pay the club back down the years. It will be a bigger ongoing concern for the future.

“It needed it because it’s a good sized club. It needed something like that and it needed it for the kids and for the benefit of the future of the club.”

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The new training centre will see the youth team and development squads based in the same building, an aspirational idea Dyche was keen to implement.

The Clarets chief is also delighted with the quality of the pitches for his side to train on, an issue that has long been problematic at Gawthorpe.

“The biggest thing is to enclose everyone from the top end of the system, so from 16 and onwards, the academy, development squad and first team can all interlink, exchange ideas as coaching staff and different departments,” the Burnley boss added.

“It’s giving a bigger picture view for the club and giving a better platform to work from.

“The main thing before has been the pitches, because we’ve always struggled for pitches here, now we have plenty of very good pitches and there is still two to come so I think that will be a massive step forward.

“Players need good surfaces to go and train on, whether that’s young kids to right the way through the system, and to have a good facility to back that up is a big bonus.”

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Under Bob Lord in the 1950s Burnley were the first club in the country to have a purpose-built training ground, but they had been left behind by their rivals in recent years.

While the Clarets won’t lack for world class facilities now, Heaton is keen to protect the feel the more basic Gawthorpe base generated.

“It’s very functional, it’s got everything you need,” he said of the old complex. “I also think that’s important, you don’t want to go too far where it’s all luxurious and glamorous and you lose that feel, it’s not what we’re about and the manager makes that message a lot.

“You want the best facilities to give you the best platform but you don’t want to lose that old school feeling.

"You’re there to get the best out of yourself, you’re there to work and do a job to the best of your ability and I think they’ve found that balance really well.”

As captain Heaton was consulted on what the players wanted from the £10.6million facility, and was also in charge of arranging the seating plan in the dressing room.

“There was a bit of input from the players for the dressing room, and then a bit of what we will call a ‘discussion’ for where people sit and the best seats, which was an interesting afternoon,” the captain added.

“But we’ve managed to sort all that out and we’re looking forward to moving in there.

“I had the sheet to go round so I went to my favourites first then to the others!

“There was a little debate but we got it sorted, there’s a few spare spaces in there.

“It’s massive in the changing room. It doesn’t really matter where you sit.”

And Dyche is confident his side will be settled in their new surroundings within a matter of days.

“The building, for a club of this size, is fantastic I think,” he said.

“It’s another big marker for a club like Burnley to have a facility like that, it’s another shift forward and we want to use it wisely.

“I think when you get into anything new, whether it’s a new house or office, you adapt.

"Your brain is so flexible that when you get in a new place after a couple of days it feels like you’ve been there forever. I think we’ll adapt ultra quickly.”