Birmingham City in Marbella - Find out exactly where Blues are carrying out their pre-season training

If successful Championship seasons are waged on cold Tuesday nights in Sheffield and Blackburn, the foundations for that success are laid in places like the Marbella Football Centre.

Birmingham City will spend the next five days at a venue which is curiously difficult to find, both online and even more so in person, but which understatedly speaks for itself.

True style is being good, knowing you are good but not having have to try.
That is the Marbella Football Centre all over.

It is a venue with a single, airy clubhouse with four levels including a sun roof from where the view over the pitches is spectacular - in every direction.

There are four full-size pitches, about six half-pitches and various other facilities like head tennis courts - each one an oasis of green in a dusty, arid, undulating landscape.

The Sierra Nevada mountains strike an imposing backdrop, looming over the green pastures as though standing guard. This could be Spanish football’s best kept secret.

Except it isn’t a secret at all. Anybody who’s anybody in the sport seems to know about the Marbella Football Centre.

As you pass under a gateway which could just as easily have ‘OK Corral’ carved across the drive, you immediately become aware of the venue’s connections with an illustrious past.

A figure of Pele, gold shirt gleaming in the severe sunlight, is the first sign of what lies within.

Just five metres up the path up to the clubhouse is a sporting equivalent of Mount Rushmore. The heads of Maradona, Platini, Zoff, Best and Cruyff are among 20 or so carved into the wall.

Beneath them is a single word. Football. Repeated in dozens of languages.
Further up the drive and just in front of the stone clubhouse we find a tatty white van, with English number plates. Birmingham’s kit, cones, balls and acquatonic drinks have arrived after their three day over-land odyssey.

On the ground floor the equipment, the tools of Gary Rowett’s trade - or torture, is piled into a roomy, pleasantly shady changing room awaiting the Blues manager.

Rowett’s name and club crest have been printed out on A4 paper and mounted on the wall, next to a picture of Ferenc Puskas, the galloping major of Real Madrid and Hungary.

Puskas’ image is the next reference to the pedigree and ambition of the place.
Where there isn’t a picture of a footballing great, there is a framed shirt of an international or club team.

Photos of Gordon Banks and Franz Beckenbauer are interspersed with signed shirts from the Mexico and Argentina national teams.

Benfica, Glasgow Celtic and Cruz Azul are among the 50 or so frames which hang off every wall, on every level, and curl up the spiral staircase on to the roof. Which is not so much a sun-trap as furnace.

Even it’s Greco-style architecture has started to crumble under the sheer ferocity of the heat.

Back downstairs, on the second level, is a press room, with a Marbella Football Centre backdrop, a table and four rows of chairs arranged in front.

It is easy to imagine John Toshack or the coach of the Albanian national team, answering questions from the few journalists able to find the centre. Or the Dutch, or Ivory Coast, or Polish or...need I go on.

It is even more easy to imagine just how many leaders of the world game have been here because in the well lit, tiled press room are around ten mounted shirts standing on the floor, unable to jostle their way into a position of prominence.
Club Atletico Penarol and Rubin Kazan clearly still have work to do to make it onto the wall of fame.

This, after all, is the Marbella Football Centre, where the stars appear on every wall and the implication is that whoever comes to work here, should reach for the stars.

Birmingham City will do that for the next five days and if they can be inspired and survive under the punishing sun, they will be more than prepared for a frosty Tuesday night at Ewood Park.

Published: www.birminghammail.co.uk/sport/football/football-news/birmingham-city-marbella-find-out-11559135

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