BURTON UPON TRENT, England October 10 – England captain Steven Gerrard admits his country can have no more excuses for failure on the international stage after the English FA unveiled their new National Football Centre on Tuesday.
St George’s Park, the Burton home of the new National Football Centre, was officially opened by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, who arrived by helicopter to be greeted by over 1,000 leading football figures to mark the culmination of a £105 million football master-plan.
The FA first discussed such a centre in 1975 and now hope their home of excellence for players and coaches will deliver a winning England team within the next 15 years.
It will also be a permanent training base for England before games, with players having their own onsite hotel, their individual rooms adorned by pictures of their international predecessors.
England and Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard, who has a photo of ex-England forward Gary Lineker on his St George’s bedroom wall, said: “The lads are buzzing and feel really lucky to have facilities like this.
“I hope it makes a difference. We’ve got the best stadium in the world and now the training facilities too so we have taken away all of the excuses for the future.
“Football these days is all about preparation and recovery at the top level.”
Set in the Staffordshire National Forest, in 330 acres of landscaped parkland, the centre will be the training base for all 24 England teams.
It is also planned to produce 250,000 new elite football coaches in the next decade.
England manager Roy Hodgson said: “We have a great national stadium and now a national training centre too. Facilities don’t make a better football team; it is the work you do within the facilities.
“I’m rather hoping that the work that will go on here and the amount of effort we’ll put in here to help produce better players and coaches will lead us one day to that elusive World Cup victory.
“When I started as a manager some people thought coaching was unnecessary and it was just about whether you could play or not, but I’d like too think in the new Millennium that we have grown up.
“We can not just rely on the fact that because we produce so many good players they will not benefit or become even better with right the coaching.
“That doesn’t exist in any other sport – take cycling for example. It is time we put our eggs into the coaching basket.”
Hodgson earlier conducted his England training session in front of the dignitaries and media in attendance for the National Football Centre’s official opening.
FA President Prince William and his wife Kate were also keen spectators and they met the players on the pitch too.
Hodgson admitted: “I prefer to do my coaching without a crowd, but I hope they enjoyed what they saw and we were more than happy to play our part.”
St George’s Park is also the home of FA Learning, the FA’s educational department, national coach education courses and a platform for the communication of The Future Game philosophy, which outlines a vision for the development of English football.
The complex has evolved after exhaustive world-wide research into the best sporting facilities.
FA staff visited their international counterparts Clairefontaine (France), Zeist (Holland), Coverciano (Italy), the Ciudad del Futbol (Spain) as well as Premier League clubs including Arsenal and Manchester United to learn from their set-ups.
Among the key details at St George’s Park are: 11 outdoor pitches, including an exact replica of the Wembley Stadium surface; a full-sized indoor pitch and a massive indoor sports hall.
There is also a bespoke sports medicine, rehabilitation and performance centre, creating the most advanced facility of its kind in the UK.