Football Association officials proud as St George’s Park officially opens its doors.
St George’s Park, the new national football centre will officially open its doors today, marking a landmark moment for English football.
Over a decade after the Football Association purchased the 330-acre site near Burton-upon-Trent and 18 months after the building project began, the new £100m facility will be officially opened by the Duke and Duchess Of Cambridge.
As the Football Association prepared to welcome the great and the good of English football and the national media to the grand opening, senior FA officials have been speaking about the significance of the national football centre for English football.
The football world will get chance to look on as Roy Hodgson hosts his first open training session on the Sir Alf Ramsey pitch, something that FA General Secretary Alex Horne believes the players will enjoy.
“The facilities are excellent. It’s all here on site and it’s all first class, they can just come out from the hotel onto the training pitch and it’s an exact replica of Wembley,” said Horne.
“The Duke Of Cambridge is our President and he was really keen to come and see the centre today and it’s a great day for us.”
As well as playing host to all 24 England teams, St George’s Park will host state-of-the-art sports science facilities as well as acting as the new centre of English football coaching.
The FA want the centre to become a “university of coaching” that will raise coaching and playing standards for years to come.
“The range of functions here are so great. it’s a coaching centre, it’s a sports science centre, a rehabilitation centre,” said FA Chairman David Bernstein.
“There is so much built into this project. It’s an inspirational place as well, the pinnacle of things that are happening elsewhere around the country.
“We are trying to do so much with youth development generally, and this represents the pinnacle of that.”
The salubrious new surroundings may provide a short-term lift for Roy Hodgson’s men, but the real positive effect of St George’s Park is not expected for many years.
Allied to the FA’s Future Game strategy and the upcoming changes to youth football, Sir Trevor Brooking hopes that St George’s Park will help English football reap long-term reqards.
“I’d like to see the quality of grassroots football improve,” said the FA’s Director Of Football Development.
“Rather than coaches thinking about where they are in the league at the end of the week, they should be thinking ‘are my players getting better, are we improving them from a technical point of view?’
“That’s really what the coach should be judged on in those early age groups. If we can improve kids technically, I think they will also stay in the game longer – because at the moment a lot of them leave as teenagers. That’s very important too.
“Initially we’ll get our 24 teams using St. George’s Park. You’d like to see a youngster coming in here at 15 and get the ‘wow factor’ and want to stay with the England teams throughout the age-groups, U17s, through to Under-21s and Seniors.”
As St George’s Park opens its doors, what do you think this means for English football? Are you excited for the future of the game in England?
Do you expect the centre to raise the bar for football coaching across the country? Or does more need to do more in other areas before England can really progress?
If you’re from elsewhere in the UK, would you like to see your national FA open a national football centre? Or is the cash best spent elsewhere?