Brighton FanZoner Brett Mendoza returns from the Seagulls' new training complex with a glowing report on what the future may hold at the Amex.
As a Brighton fan, today will go down as a day I will never forget. The first team don't have a game for almost two weeks, but I got a real insight into the club I love as I went on a tour of the new £15 million training complex.
Believe it or not, a trip to what is essentially a building site was ridiculously interesting and entertaining. Due for completion in June 2014, the complex based in Lancing shows the huge ambition of the club and the high standards they are striving for.
On the tour alongside me were Head Coach, Oscar Garcia, his back room staff, CEO Paul Barber and the man in charge of the Training Ground operation, Martin Perry. His in-depth knowledge of what is happening was a pleasure to listen to. As a fan, the whole situation I found myself in was totally surreal.
Just hearing him talk about what we are about to build seems so far-fetched from the reality of the past 15 years, plying our trade in the lower leagues, playing in Gillingham, Withdean and training in the grounds of the University gym.
The new reality is we are building an infrastructure to set us up for life in the Premier League. The project team took visits to the training grounds of Manchester United, Spurs and Chelsea to get ideas and are building something comparable to what they saw.
13 pitches in total, 2 of which are identical to the one inside The Amex, including the goals used. 5 pitches have been set aside for the first team, 7 pitches of varying sizes have been allocated for the various age groups coming through the club's academy, with one pitch set aside for use for the community.
The pitches are also of varying surfaces; grass, 3G, synthetic and fibrelastic. Two are under floodlights, two even include under-soil heating. The cherry on the top is the indoor half-pitch for when the winter kicks in.
To me it is all massively impressive. The detail to which the club are going to doesn't really hold back. Swimming pools, gyms, classrooms, dining areas, gardens, relaxing spaces, media centre, changing rooms for each age group, IT suites, training areas specifically for goalkeepers, the complex has the lot. The most daunting of which is something called The Running Hill; some players are going to be severely tested on that!
One of the touches I did like is that there is a road being built between the complex and Shoreham Airport nearby which will charter the team about the country when we make it to the Premier League and, who knows, Europe?! We may even see some big signings one day fly in and sign on a manic transfer deadline day. I can dream!
Paul Barber gets some stick for some of his ideas and which direction the club are heading in terms of money, but having chatted to him, he is a nice bloke with a massive passion for football. I could tell with the way he spoke passionately about the whole project that the facility we are getting will be amongst the best in the country.
It was the first time that Oscar Garcia had been on site, so when Perry told him about his office with its own private balcony overlooking the 5 first team pitches, you could see the grin on his face grow with pride. I think he was as taken aback with the project as I was. You have to see it to believe it.
As we strolled around the site we were being followed by the TV crews of Sky Sports, BBC and ITV. Everyone seemed impressed. The sheer scale of the place is the thing that hit me most. I didn't realise just how big 13 football pitches are when put side by side. The site covers an expansive 40acres. It is huge!
With Oscar's Barcelona background, it is easy to compare our new venture to the famous La Cantera, I just hope it can bring the club half as much joy and decent players as it has for Barca.
The training ground will not be open for public access once completed, so I realise how lucky I have been to see it all first hand. It would be brilliant to see it with all of it completed and everything in place. The players are in for a proper treat when they report back for pre season training next season!
It may not be going great on the pitch at the moment, but off the pitch, behind the scenes, the infrastructure will be in place to take us much further.