Complete Guide to Chelsea's Cobham Training Complex
Chelsea FC have a lot to thank Roman Abramovich for. Aside from the significant investment in world-class players and the subsequent trophies, the billionaire has helped the club’s long-term development beyond any prior standards.
Sure, he’s been trigger happy with his managers, and his lack of media interviews has given him the reputation of a super-rich recluse. However, those who question whether he really knows what he is doing should look no further than Chelsea’s state-of-the-art training complex at Cobham.
When Abramovich arrived at the club in 2003, the first team was training at Imperial College’s Harlington recreation ground. The facilities there were outdated and bore no comparison to the likes of Manchester United and Liverpool, both of whom had dedicated training complexes.
Abramovich recognised that this would need to change if Chelsea were to establish themselves at the top level of club football and immediately began searching for new facilities. A 140-acre site in rural Surrey was chosen, with work on the £20 million project beginning in 2004. It officially opened its doors in 2007 and the club has not looked back since.
Despite a few grumbles from "NIMBY" locals, the complex is considered a triumph by all involved. It allows the whole Chelsea “family” to work together on one site and bridges the gap between the academy and first team.
Designed by the same architectural practice which redeveloped the West Stand at Stamford Bridge, Cobham has credentials as a green, sustainable complex. The main building’s grass-covered roof improves air quality whilst helping it blend into its green-belt surroundings, and the glazing is designed to maximise energy efficiency.
The site houses 30 outdoor pitches, six of which meet Premier League standards, and one indoor artificial pitch. As well as allowing for full training sessions and community projects, the youth team’s competitive fixtures are played at Cobham. The proximity of the pitches allows Jose Mourinho to keep tabs on the reserve and academy players who could join his first-team squad.
Impressive as the outdoor amenities are, what goes on inside the buildings is what gives Cobham its edge.
Rehabilitation facilities have been designed to minimise the time taken to recover from injuries with a hydrotherapy pool allowing players to begin weight-bearing exercise far sooner than before. A second pool with an adjustable bottom allows programs to be completely customised according to the players’ needs, and there is a fully equipped spa for players to wind down after training.
Every imaginable piece of cardiovascular and weight training equipment can be found in the gym, allowing the players to keep at their physical peak.
Despite all of this wonderful design and technology, it’s not all serious sports science. A canteen with a pool table has given rise to plenty of off-the-pitch competition over the years and players are frequently found napping on the sofas in the common area.
The academy and community pavilion opened in 2007 and houses another full gymnasium, 16 separate changing areas as well as recreational and rehabilitation facilities. It is kept more basic than the first-team facilities in order to maintain the youth players’ motivation to break into the first-team squad.
With plans underway for a permanent indoor pitch to be added to the pavilion, it is clear that Chelsea and Abramovich will continue to invest in the future of Cobham for many years to come.
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