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Blues to benefit from Spanish partnership

Charlie Lakin, who is training at Cornella.

The partnership with Cornella, who play in the Segunda Division B, the third tier in Spain, has been driven by Blues CEO Xuandong Ren.

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The Club has joined forced with UE Cornella in a special link-up to aid player and coach development.

Blues Senior Professional Development Coach Richard Beale is leading a four-strong delegation of players to the Catalan side, which is based near Barcelona, until Thursday.

Under-23s Remeao Hutton and Charlie Lakin will train with the Cornella first team, whilst Academy prospects Connor Stanley and Remi Walker will gain experience with their Under-18s.

The partnership with Cornella, who play in the Segunda Division B, the third tier in Spain, has been driven by Blues CEO Xuandong Ren.

It's the first association of its kind for Blues and Academy Manager Kristjaan Speakman says it is an exciting project that can only do good, for a variety of reasons.

“We initially launched an idea about giving players some exposure in a foreign environment to aid their development. We sent three boys to Freiburg in Germany last year.

“Subsequently, the new Chief Executive has been keen for us to forge further links and started discussions about a partnership with Cornella, in Barcelona.

“This trip is an extension of what we did last year with Freiburg and is also the first stage of us developing that partnership, for this season.

“We are going to be doing two of these exchanges whereby we will be sending players over to train with their groups.

"And the reason behind that is when we send groups over to play foreign teams they invariably stay together, they get some exposure to foreign influence and the intricacies of the foreign environment. What this forces them to do is to train with the Spanish players, there’s the challenge of the language, the climate, the style of football, style of coaching, maybe the structure of how they set up their sessions and when they occur in the daytime.

“That’s really unique. It was a fantastic thing last season and it’s obviously something we want to continue.

“The other parts of the partnership are about trying to provide loan opportunities for some of our players post-18. It’s very, very difficult to access competitive football and play in a similar style we would like to play in. There are limited opportunities in the UK. You see a number of Premier League teams who have got partnerships with clubs abroad and this is something we are looking to evolve, whereby one or two of our players, maybe the Under-23 squad, can go and spend time out in Cornella.

“The final part of it would be things like pre-season trips, coach education – we have a group of coaches going out there in February. Pre-season would potentially be out in Barcelona. And it is just getting a sharing platform for all levels about what we do.”

This is Cornella's fourth season in Segunda Division B. Ex-Blues midfielder Enric Valles is a former player who helped them to an historic promotion to their current ranking, the highest in their 66-year history.

Hutton, 19, and Lakin, 18, have been mainstays of Blues Under-23s this season. Stanley, 16, is an energetic attacking midfielder who can dribble dangerously and Walker, a calm, passing midfielder, turns 15 on Tuesday.

“Remeao and Charlie will train with their first team group on Monday and Tuesday and Connor and Remi have the opportunity to train with their Under-18 squad.

“So there will be a real challenge for them in terms of the environment they are going into.

“They great thing about this trip, too, is that we get the chance to watch Cornella’s first team on Wednesday night, so we start to gain a bit more of an understanding of and the education around Spanish football, some of the differences, some of the work."

Speakman says the vision of Xuandong Ren and the owners was key to the whole project.

“The owners have been really forward-thinking. Not just in terms of developing our stuff back at the training ground and in the UK, but they are really keen to provide the players with different educational trips, whether that be football or non-football or a combination of both.

“We have already had a 14s group go out to China earlier in the season and this project with Cornella we are putting together has been instigated by Dong, who is very keen for it to be something the Club participates in.

"It is only going to be a fantastic resource for the players’ development going forward the tighter we can get that relationship, and in other areas as well.”

Speakman adds: “One of the fundamental things making this work is not just the foresight of our owners to back the project, it is also the open-mindedness of the Cornella staff and their technical director Andres Manzano. He has been over to Birmingham already to review training, the players and meet staff. He is very receptive about linking the partnership to his club.”  

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