The appearance of Newcastle City Hall baths belies its age - it was built in 1928.

Clean and well-used, all its customers sing the praises of the staff.

But there is just one small problem with the pool - it is 25 metres too short.

The pool found itself at the centre of a maelstrom of publicity when Olympic hopeful Susan Rolph launched a blistering attack on North-East training facilities.

It was at the Newcastle baths that she prepared for Sydney 2000, completing up to 60,000m a week in the 25m pool.

Yesterday, up and coming hopefuls at the baths threw their weight behind Susan.

Craig Nicholson, 21, who has competed on a national and regional level, said: "We need a 50m pool because there is nothing between Edinburgh and Leeds.

"That means travelling and the extra expense of overnight stay if we want to use a larger pool."

David Straughan, 20, who was Susan's training partner, said she had never mentioned the length of the pool while preparing for the Olympics.

He said: "She was concentrating very much on her training. But I agree with her at the same time.

"Having a 50m pool would have a very real impact on the sport in the region and improve the existing talent."

Budding swimmer Andrew Thirlwell, 14, said: "I am still of the age where a 50m pool would benefit me enormously."

Nick Jackson, 21, of Wigan, said he had come to study at Newcastle University because of the "excellent swimming set-up" in the region.

He said: "I came despite the facilities, not because of them. There is an awful lot of talent in this region. I had a 50m pool in Wigan - it makes training a lot more realistic for a race situation."

Newcastle city councillor Kevan Jones, who is spearheading a drive to build an international standard pool in the city centre in the next four years, said: "I agree with Susan that the city does need a 50m pool, and we would work very closely with her on achieving this.

"However, I think it is unfair for her to criticise council. I think we are doing very well with the facilities we have got."

Newcastle Sports Council secretary Malcolm Dix said: "We do recognise what she is getting at.

"What she said seemed to come out of a personal sense of frustration after not getting to the finals of her event.

"But let's hope that her remarks can act as a catalyst in the northern region and central government, to start releasing some Lottery money into sport."