THE APPROVAL of Swindon Town’s proposed new training facility in Highworth is crucial if the club has genuine ambitions to motor through the Football League tiers.

That’s the opinion of manager Richie Wellens, who insists the completion of the club’s planned £6m project is the most important long-term element of his job at this moment in time.

Wellens used Premier League club Brighton and League One outfit Fleetwood Town as prime examples why state-of-the-art training facilities are so important in the modern game.

The Seagulls’ £20m American Express Elite Football Performance Centre opened in July 2014 – the club has since risen from 20th in the Championship to an established top flight club.

Similarly, Fleetwood’s Poolfoot Farm facility – which cost £8m to build – has helped the club stabilise itself in League One, the highest tier the club has played in during its history.

In October, Town’s plan to build a new headquarters took a hit when Highworth councillors recommended the plans to be refused.

But after Town’s 3-1 win over Crewe Alexandra, Wellens told the Adver that being granted permission to build the proposed facility would be the biggest long-term victory the club could possibly achieve.

He said: “There are two big things for me as a manager – the playing surface of our ground, and our training pitch.

“The training ground is the biggest one, though. Bury had the best training ground in League Two last year, and they did really well.

“The training ground surface is where players are developed and you get your ideas across.

“We’ve picked up loads of injuries, we think it is because our training surface at Beversbrook is quite soft and muddy.

“The astro turf at the County Ground is firm, and our actual pitch is made up of nice grass – we are constantly changing the surface we train on.

“It might be pot luck, but it doesn’t help when you train on a different surface day in, day out.”

One youngster benefitting from Brighton’s training facility is 15-year-old Marcus Ifil.

The teenager was sold to Graham Potter’s Brighton last year, and Town have a significant sell-on clause should the south coast club sell him on at a future date.

In future, Wellens would ideally like to work with the likes of Ifil. But he understands the club must be operated as a business.

“I would love for us to get four or five players through the youth team and into our first team,” said Wellens.

“This football club is a business, and we have to take the money for him and protect ourselves with a sell on.

“Jayden Bogle is another, hopefully he will move in January.

“It’s about us going to the parents in the area, and if the kids are good enough they will move to bigger clubs. Big clubs have so many players, and it’s easy to get flushed away with the system.

“At Swindon Town, you will stand out.”