Sir Bob Murray was delighted when the Academy of Light, SAFC’s world class training facility, was awarded category one status, the highest possible rating under the new EPPP (Elite Player Performance Plan) system. The EPPP is a long-term strategy designed to take Premier League Youth Development to the next level and the rankings were introduced for the first time in 2012. Only a handful of Premier League sides have achieved the top ranking status to date.
“I’m thrilled that the Academy of Light has been recognised in this way and awarded the highest possible performance ranking”, he said.
“The Academy plans were ambitious from the outset, originally including a full size indoor and hostel, because we knew how important the Academy would be in the long-term. I know at times some supporters couldn’t understand why getting the stadium right initially, and then the academy was so important. But they were and are crucial if Sunderland is to compete successfully at the highest level for many decades to come. The stadium is the theatre, and the training ground is where we train and develop the stars.
“The Academy is a world apart from the club’s former training grounds, the Charlie Hurley Centre that I had to personally fund for the club from my own resources and which just consisted of 2 pitches and temporary buildings including a dilapidated pavilion; or the training facility I inherited in 1986, which was just a single field at Cleadon. In those days the players had to use the dressing room at Roker Park, drive to Cleadon to train and back again to shower afterwards. I can’t imagine any top players contemplating that these days!
“Sunderland’s story is very similar to that of the national team. England faced the same challenges and they are the reason why I was asked to join the Wembley Board to help secure the funding and award the contract for Wembley, and later why I was asked to be Project Director for St George’s Park.
“I feel great pride about the local players that have graduated from the Academy such as Jordan Henderson and know we’d never sold a player for £19m before it was built!”
Commenting on the award of EPPP category one status Sunderland AFC chief executive Margaret Byrne added, “The Academy that you (Sir Bob) built has enabled our staff to work in a world class facility and strive for excellence. This is a massive achievement as we are recognised as one of the best academies in the country to develop footballers. It will also be worldwide recognition for our Academy.”