From car park to Compton Park: An exclusive tour of Wolves' multi-million pound training ground
Wolves used to train on a concrete car park, with traffic cones for goalposts and a brick wall behind the goal to stop the ball travelling too far.
That was 30 years ago. It’s a bit different nowadays, writes Wolves correspondent Tim Spiers.
Their multi-million pound training complex at Compton Park, known as the Sir Jack Hayward Training Ground, has become a symbol of the club’s rapid growth in recent years.
Since Steve Morgan invested £50million to turn the facility into one of the best of its kind in Europe, complete with a separate academy building and an indoor full-size pitch, it’s been a major draw to help attract new signings.
And now, with Fosun keen to take Wolves to the next level as soon as possible, Compton Park has undergone another multi-million pound facelift. So we thought we’d take a look inside.
If you’ve been to Compton Park before, on approaching the main first-team building you may not think a huge amount has changed in the past 18 months.
But during our guided tour we’re shown a host of upgrades which leave the players and staff wanting for nothing, reflecting the attention to detail of Nuno Espirito Santo and his backroom whose exhaustive work in terms of pre-match preparation and innovative sport science have played a key role in Wolves’ success over the past 15 months.
For a start the canteen area has been extended with a new chef (who travels with the team to matches) offering a fine-tuned diet (and vegan options for the likes of Matt Doherty and Danny Batth before him). There’s a designated long table for the first-team players to sit at, with the coaches alongside.
“What you eat and drink here affects your performance on a matchday” is one of many slogans dotted around the building that surrounds the perimeter of the room.
Downstairs there’s a new warm-up area to use before training, complete with the latest weight and cardio equipment and even a mini cricket pitch (with a fair few holes in the ceiling from where the ball’s been given a vertical smack). That’s mostly for the English lads but apparently Ruben Neves is a fan too.
This room also includes a ‘booty builder’, stretching balls and iPads stuck to the walls to give instant feedback on the work they’re doing. Much of the equipment is transportable and it’s not unusual to see the players limbering up in opposition dressing rooms or even in the tunnel, if it’s big enough.
Next to all this is a head tennis area, which many will have seen splashed all over social media. Surrounding it is wolf-based graffiti, which Nuno one day personally organised to be done overnight as a surprise for the players the following morning – and slogans “be brave, “protect the team” and one of Nuno’s favourites, “stay humble”.
GALLERY: Behind the scenes at Compton Park
The warm-up area leads directly outside to two state-of-the-art ‘Desso Grassmaster’ hybrid pitches (part plastic, part grass), each at a seven-figure cost, which replicate the Molineux turf exactly in both touch and size.
One of the pitches is now floodlit, so the players can train on late afternoons during winter. The other has undersoil heating.
Both pitches are at the back of the training ground and partly encircled by trees. If reflects the almost extreme privacy that clubs enlist these days to avoid prying eyes of the public (or perhaps scouts and, dare we say, journalists). To this end the club has also hired extra security, with someone perched in a booth 24/7 at the main gate checking everyone who comes in.
Back inside and we’re taken to a specialist recovery room for injured players which includes a small one-man swimming pool, in which a treadmill is inserted for players to be able to run while taking the weight off their limbs
They pool also has a wave setting so the player can constantly ‘swim against the tide’.
Next to that there’s a steam room (we kindly declined an offer to hop in wearing full suits) and next door is a new dedicated physio room for the under-23s.
The youngsters and the first team used to share one but, as is reflected elsewhere in the building including in the canteen, the two are kept apart. Previous boss Kenny Jackett was big on the younger players and the old ones mixing freely, but Nuno’s mantra is they must earn their place at the top table.
The first team dressing room remains the same but the players do have new baths (one hot, one cold, which they alternative between after training sessions) and a new lounge area with sofas, TVs and table tennis.
If that wasn’t enough, the building houses new offices for Jeff Shi (and one for his assistant), a bigger room for the expanded Wolves recruitment department (who are busy watching games when we walk in) and a new press conference room with space for around 60 hacks, TV and radio presenters. Previously, press conferences took place in makeshift rooms.
It’s all deeply impressive. And it’s all been done with minimal disruption to the players and staff.
Part of the building was actually constructed elsewhere and then ‘dropped on’ after being delivered to Compton on a huge transporter. Hat tip to Modulex UK for that one.
Wolves are a club going places in a hurry. They’re aiming to be the best they can be – the training ground is already there.