FA unwraps £100m monument to future of football
The words of Sir Bobby Robson deliver one of a series of inspirational messages at the Football Association's new £100m monument to the future of the game in England.
England's players will see the words "Practice Makes Permanent" adorning the wall as they walk through the corridors to their vast dressing room at St. George's Park, the FA's National Football Centre tucked away in the countryside at Burton-upon-Trent.
And when England's senior squad finally take up residence after the realisation of a long-held - and much-delayed - dream at the FA, they will find the perfect environment in which to practice what the great manager Robson was preaching.
The future of English football was in full bloom at Burton on Tuesday. Not simply bricks and mortar but flesh and blood as coach John Peacock's under-17 squad, "the Burton Guinea Pigs" as he affectionately called them, got first use of the national game's breathtaking new facility.
Peacock, experienced and hugely respected in FA circles, was preparing his young charges for a four-team tournament involving Italy, Portugal and Turkey that kicks off on Wednesday night with a meeting against the Italians at Burton Albion's nearby Pirelli Stadium.
As England's young players enjoyed lunch, the Italian squad sat nearby. All four teams are using the facilities, with Roy Hodgson's senior squad expected to sample their new home ahead of the World Cup qualifier against San Marino in October.
Hodgson will address England's youth team during a visit on Wednesday, a sign of his commitment to a project which is seen as one of the cornerstones of the FA's plans to develop the game.
There are plenty of nods to English football's past, images of the greats around every corner. Photo: FA
There are plenty of nods to English football's past, images of the greats around every corner and a picture of victorious captain Billy Wright being hoisted shoulder high by his team mates at Wembley in that main dressing room, but everything at Burton is aimed at the future and rivalling the national centres that have been at the heart of the well-being of the game in superpowers such as France, Spain and the Netherlands.
Suites and rooms are dedicated to England's greats from Paul Gascoigne to Sir Bobby Charlton. There are 12 full-size training pitches and a grass replica of the Wembley surface. An indoor pitch also has a 100m sprint track running alongside should anyone wish to draw inspiration from another message decorating the walls of Burton, this time from the great American Olympian Jesse Owens, who said: "A lifetime of training for just 10 seconds."
Quite simply, Burton contains everything anyone connected with the English game would want in state-of-the-art form. The League Managers' Association and the Professional Footballers' Association are on site and on Tuesday a party of referees - led by Premier League referees' chief Mike Riley and World Cup final official Howard Webb - were on a tour of the facility.
Peacock's young players have beaten the likes of Steven Gerrard, Wayne Rooney and Frank Lampard to Burton and the coach makes no effort to downplay the role he sees the National Football Centre playing.
He said: "This is an immensely important facility. It is great credit to the Football Association that we have finally got it over the line. I came back to the FA in 2002 thinking the National Football Centre was going to open a year later and it didn't happen, so I'm glad I'm still around to see it.
"From a development point of view it's fantastic and the facilities are second to none. In terms of the quality of the pitches and the environment it is conducive to learning and education. From a coach education perspective it is the same. We can now run our national courses here, for A and B licences and the age group courses.
"We have now got everything under one roof. It is a really big benefit."
Peacock believes the centre has already had an impact on his squad, saying: "I think when they come down the driveway they will look and think 'wow what a fantastic complex' because there is no doubt facilities back at clubs are fantastic in their own right.
"I think it was imperative that we could replicate something along those lines ourselves as the national body - and in fact be better.
"I think the players need to see a difference from what they get at the club environment to what they get at international level, so this all-encompassing environment of learning, education and an environment where all that can be facilitated is so important."
The cutting edge of sport is everywhere. Including sports science laboratories, altitude chambers and multiple gymnasiums. On a tour on Tuesday it looked every inch as the FA would have imagined it when the idea was first conceived in 2001.
Peacock added: "When you look at the Dutch, French and Spanish they all have their own national centres. It was only right that a country the size of ourselves finally has our own technical base to work from. I see it as a training ground environment. Wembley is fantastic but it wasn't a technical football base where we could get on a training pitch and educate our players. Here we can.
"What is important is that all our stakeholders are working in the same direction. There is a groundswell of opinion that we need to produce better international teams, we need to get our teams playing regularly in the top tournaments to give them the experience, we need to develop better coaches going forward and all our stakeholders are buying into that.
"When you have got the LMA on site and the PFA have got an office here, it is a sign that we're all working together for the common theme of making English football better.
"I personally think English football couldn't have done without this centre. When you think of what the clubs have done individually in raising their standards, with facilities, coaching and general youth development structure, it has been fantastic. As an association we have needed to do something on top of that.
"It is for the game in England generally, it is for the whole country to get the benefit from."
England's youngsters have started that process this week - and the FA hopes it is one that will continue for generations.