Liverpool have reacquired their historic training ground at Melwood, with new faces walking its halls and calling the West Derby site home.
If there was a common theme to the celebratory speeches that marked the official opening of the AXA Melwood Training Centre, it was that an incredible amount of work had gone into getting the facility back up to scratch.
But for anyone who hadn’t visited the iconic training ground in the three years since the men’s first team departed, it didn’t look like much had changed at all.
And that is great news for its new residents, the club’s women’s team and its academy, who have inherited a setup still worthy of a Premier League side.
That includes two Desso Grassmaster pitches worth a whopping £1 million each, which only needed minor sprucing up from grounds manager Warren Scott and his team.
Players also have use of a plunge pool, steam room, improved rehabilitation facilities, and a sprawling gym, all while being fuelled from a first-class kitchen setup.
And though Jurgen Klopp‘s beloved padel tennis court is gone, floodlights will soon return to aid night-time training, planning permission permitting.
The scheduling of sessions will no longer be dictated by Tranmere Rovers, with whom Liverpool Women were previously forced to share the Solar Campus on the Wirral.
This improvement in both environment and conditions demands more from a team that is already on an upward trajectory, as manager Matt Beard himself is happy to admit.
“When you look at the history here and what it means to the football club, myself, my staff and the players have the chance to create a lot of history here,” he said last Friday.
“For us that gives us motivation because looking at the people that have been through these doors and trained on these pitches just inspires us to try and emulate what they did in the past. Melwood is game-changing.”
Beard has taken up residence in the same office Klopp once occupied, and used its view over the pitches to good effect on opening day as he attempted to greet Missy Bo Kearns with a wave mid-interview.
Unlike the men’s first team manager, he shares that space with his coaching staff, a consequence of the fact that the Fowler Education Football Academy (FEFA) still take up other parts of the building.
However, the intimacy of Beard’s new home is certainly no hardship when compared to the makeshift nature of the arrangements that preceded it.
And the feeling that this return to Melwood is all part of a long-term vision is further spelled out across the hall, where Michael Edwards’ old office now houses staff running an academy recently awarded Category 1 Professional Game Academy status by the FA.
This is where senior figures hoped the club would be as they aimed to recover from a devastating relegation in 2020 that prompted much soul-searching.
As well as reappointing Beard and improving investment in the squad, a search for a new training facility that took in over 40 sites began.
Fortunately, Torus Homes, the development company who initially purchased Melwood from Liverpool, had not yet followed through on their intention to build new homes – perhaps it was fate.
The benefits of the new facility were seen straight away as Liverpool kicked off the new season by beating likely title challengers Arsenal in front of a WSL-record 54,115 fans at the Emirates on Sunday.
Perhaps that result, and Liverpool’s new inspirational surroundings, will have Matt Beard considering whether his target of a top-five finish this season was a little conservative.