Crystal Palace sporting director Dougie Freedman has said that he wants Crystal Palace to be able to keep the best players from south London in the area as the Eagles invest in their academy. The Eagles are working to get their academy to Category 1 status, with £20million plans to redevelop the club’s academy base receiving the backing of Bromley Council in March.
Dougie Freedman said “[It is] Really exciting, When I came back three years ago, one of the things that Steve [Parish] was really strong about was that the academy has really been neglected, because the club has had to put a lot of money into the first team to survive in the Premier League, which I think was the right decision. He really tasked me and said he wanted me to put a lot of energy into it, to get the academy to Cat 1 and build a new infrastructure, so for the last couple of years, I have worked very close with Steve [Parish] and Gary [Issott] and the guys there to help create what we think will be a wonderful academy and hopefully for many years to come will service the first team. We are in a great area, and we will spend a lot of money to give the building a refurb and to push us on to Cat 1, and to keep players, not let them go to the Chelsea or Arsenal. People like [Ruben] Loftus-Cheek are from our area, let’s keep them in our area. I don’t want a flash academy, I want an urban feel to it and a place that represents our club and our area, staying within the community. And to have pathways from the academy through to the first team.”
Crystal Palace secured a long-term lease for the sit on Copers Cope Road in Beckenham in December 2018 and is aiming to try and secure Category 1 academy status next year, with plans in place to provide training and playing facilities on a single site for the young players and build new educational facilities, including classrooms, lecture rooms and meeting spaces. The club hope that the project will help to inspire a new generation of local talent and provide a pathway for young players from the academy to the first team, which is something that has not been the case in recent years in the Premier League, apart from a few exceptions such as Aaron Wan-Bissaka. And Palace’s sporting director has outlined his hopes for the academy as he explained the work that has been going on behind the scenes to help the project come to fruition. In addition, he cited Chelsea midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek as an example of what Palace want to avoid happening in the future, with the former Eagles loanee being born in south London in Lewisham, but joining the Blues’ academy at the age of eight.