Gareth Southgate says that this summer’s opening of St George’s Park provides the Football Association with a golden opportunity that they must “bring to life”.
The FA’s Head of Elite Development visited the St George’s Park site this week as part of a St George’s Day celebration and was impressed by what he saw.
“It gets more and more exciting every time you come here,” Southgate told FATV. “At the moment it’s a building. It’s an opportunity. We’ve got to bring it to life.”
Set to open in later summer 2012, St George’s Park will become the new home for all 24 England national teams, providing state-of-the-art training facilities including 11 outdoor pitches and a Wembley-size indoor pitch.
The centre will also host the FA’s Football Development and Learning branches, providing thousands of courses to improve the quality of coaching across the football spectrum, with 80% of attendees set to come from the amateur game.
“Hopefully it will be a place for football people to meet and chat,” said Southgate. “You learn on courses but you learn just as much going and watching other people work.”
The former England international believes that St George’s Park will increase the pride players will feel in representing England whilst, allied to work going on around the country in youth football, will provide a long-term lift to the nation’s footballing fortunes.
“To create better players we need better teachers, so can we create a coaching workforce that inspires and teaches our players to the maximum possible level?”
“Then, when we go to major tournaments, hopefully we’ll have a bigger pool of English players that are playing in the Premier League regularly, getting that experience that they need, that have tournament experience with our junior national teams, so that going to a tournament isn’t a surprise to them.
“And then I think we can really go with a lot more hope than we are travelling with this summer, when expectations are a bit lower, a bit more realistic. Not to say that we can’t go there and achieve things, but I think we know that we don’t go as favourites and it would be great to be going into tournaments as favourites.”
Southgate was joined by Sir Trevor Brooking at the St George’s Day celebrations – in which pupils from local schools took part in sessions from FA coaches – and the FA’s Director of Football Development was also upbeat about the long-term future of the English game.
“We’ll hopefully make the most of the next three tournaments, but I’ve always said that 2018 or 2020 is when I think we’ll really have a depth of choice that will start to make us competitive on a regular basis,” Brooking said.
“Improving the technical skills in the younger generation is really important. If you made them better technically, I think youngsters will stay in the game.”
Gareth Southgate and Sir Trevor Brooking were speaking to FATV – check out the full interviews and the latest on St George’s Park in the video below.