Sir Geoff Hurst is one of a host of famous faces who adorn the walls of St George’s Park, the FA’s new National Football Centre.
Although the £100m centre in Burton on Trent has been designed to secure the future of English football, the past is not forgotten.
The England 1966 World Cup winner, who has a performance analysis room named in his honour, visited the 330-acre site – featured in August’s edition of The Clubhouse – this week and was suitably impressed.
And Hurst, who won 49 caps and scored 24 goals for the Three Lions, had the honour of being the first person to add his signature to the St George’s Park autograph wall.
He said: “Everybody had been saying it would be one of the best, if not the best facility of its kind in the world and it has lived up to all the expectations.
“It’s absolutely fabulous, no words can describe it.”
Hurst’s famous hat-trick against West Germany in the 1966 World Cup Final, the only treble scored at such an occasion, secured England’s only major trophy at international level.
But the former West Ham man now hopes the new National Football Centre, which will be the training base for England’s 24 teams, will inspire future success.
He added: “I think in five, six, seven years when this facility really takes off we will really start to see the benefits.
“What many people from our time realise is what impact the national side has. I would love it as an ex-England player to see us winning the World Cup again, you realise what impact it makes on the people who live in this country.”
St George’s Park, which will also be the base for all FA national coach education courses, houses eleven outdoor pitches, including a replica of the Wembley surface, a full-size indoor 3G pitch, a suite of rehabilitation and sports science areas, and two hotels.
The world-class facilities, developed after extensive research into similar centres around the globe, are unrecognisable to those experienced by a young Hurst as he made his way in the game.
And as an apprentice the boy from Ashton-under-Lyne was even found himself rolling the pitch at Upton Park.
He revealed: “The facilities at West Ham when I joined as a 15-year-old were none.
“We actually didn’t have a training ground of our own. We had to use one or two other facilities which we would rent out, we could be somewhere one week and somewhere else the next.”
The lack of facilities didn’t really hold him back. Hurst made 499 league and cup appearances at West Ham, scoring 248 goals between 1959 and 1972.
And the England legend joked that he’d have been twice the player had he had access to St George’s Park.
He said: “There’s absolutely no question about it. Had we had access to facilities like this on a regular basis, the training facility and the rehabilitation areas, we would have improved our performance.
“Physically you would improve, if you had injuries you would get back fitter and stronger.”
But for all the talk of winning future international tournaments, Hurst is pragmatic enough to understand winning at the top-level is a long-term aim, one which will be achieved through the principle aim of the centre – developing better coaches.
He added: “At the top level we need elite coaches. If you improve coaching, you improve the players. We are lagging behind the likes of Spain in terms of technical ability.
“Going back four or five years I was a little bit critical, it was quite evident we weren’t producing enough English world class players in the key positions on the field. I think we were bereft of that quality.
“You have to have important players in key positions, as we did in our time. If you look at the backbone of our team in 1966, you had Gordon Banks, Bobby Moore, Bobby Charlton, Jimmy Greaves, they were genuinely world-class players.
“We’ve got to get back to the situation where we’re producing great players in the key positions on the field.”
That sentiment is very much in line with The FA’s Future Game philosophy, which outlines a vision for the future development of English football.
He said: “I just hope that in the next five to ten years we are seeing some real benefits for the English team and producing some top quality players.
“If you look at Jack Wilshere, we are producing players but just not enough. You don’t want the odd one, you want four or five. We need to produce a consistent line of top-class English international players.”
You can join Club Website on a tour of St George’s Park in August’s edition of our monthly newsletter, The Clubhouse. Click here to take a look around.