Former Baggies man hails Albion new-look centre
DAN Ashworth returned to his old stamping ground last night to conclude the final chapter of a story he began 10 years ago.
The FA’s Director of Elite Development was on hand to see the opening of the club’s refurbished Academy centre in Halfords Lane.
The project is a subject close to Ashworth’s heart.
Back in his days as Albion’s Academy manager, it was Ashworth’s quest to raise the club’s youth development programme to the Category One level it now enjoys.
"I think it was the year of the Great Escape when we got started," the former Sporting and Technical Director told guests.
"In those days, we had to beg, steal and borrow whatever we could get for training – believe it or not, we even had to put sessions on at Aston Villa leisure centre because we were so short of facilities.
"It’s absolutely fantastic now to visit this site and see what the club has developed. Bit by bit, the club has added to the facility with the Dome and the outdoor pitches and now this refurbished building. It is superb.
"At England, we regard Albion as one of the most successful clubs for providing age group internationals which is testament to the staff who work under Mark Harrison. This building is now the icing on the cake – a fantastic effort by everyone.”
Ashworth was joined by a club captain Chris Brunt, Academy boss Mark Harrison, Professional Development Phase coach – and club legend – Darren Moore and Albion’s all-time record-breaker Tony Brown.
It was Bomber who helped formally cut the ribbon to open the building with one of the fresh young faces who is making big waves in the Academy ranks, Tyler Roberts. Tyler (pictured above with Albion legend Tony Brown) captained the Welsh Under 16s to success in the prestigious Victory Shield tournament before Christmas, a tournament which saw the Baggies represented by three other budding stars.
And the Academy centre’s opening comes at an exciting time for the club and Harrison’s Academy staff whose young proteges are making a name for themselves.
The Nabi brothers, Adil and Samir, are the free-scoring talk of the Under 21 team, a clutch of their colleagues are out on loan at various Football League levels while Saido Berahino has completed an incredible year in which he has risen from promising striker to a member of Roy Hodgson’s England squad.