St George's Park centre of excellence officially opened

 

Football Association chairman David Bernstein has described the opening of its new centre of excellence as an "historic" day for the English game.

The £105m St George's Park complex in Staffordshire will house all 24 England teams, from junior to senior levels.

"We have to get more players through who can be full England internationals and this is where it will happen," Bernstein told BBC Radio 5 live.

"So much work has gone into this for so long and to see it now is fantastic."

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were given a tour of the park

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were given a tour of the park

The 330-acre site was officially opened by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, who were given a tour of the park.

Prince William, who is president of the Football Association, said: "Coming here and seeing these wonderful facilities gives me the same feeling as when I first went to the Olympic Park.

"It gives me great pride we have created in this country facilities that are beyond compare anywhere else.

"St George's Park is a concept totally new. It will provide more than just world-class facilities for our national team and more than a university from which hundreds of coaches will graduate.

"It will provide employment and a social hub for local people and will foster community spirit and purpose and hope throughout England."

England's players are using the facility for the first time this week as they prepare for their World Cup qualifiers against San Marino and Poland.

Aimed at raising standards of play at all levels, it will provide a centre of excellence for training coaches and for sports medicine, sports science and psychology.

Among the facilities at St George's Park are:

- A senior training pitch, laid out to the exact dimensions of the playing surface at Wembley Stadium and with exactly the same mix of grass and artificial fibres.

Inside St George's Park

"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"

- 11 outdoor pitches, five of which are floodlit and have under-soil heating.

- A full-size indoor 3G artificial pitch with a viewing gallery for up to 200 people.

- An altitude chamber to mimic a variety of playing conditions.

- An indoor 60m sprint track with equipment to measure speed and running style.

- Walls adorned with sporting slogans, such as American Olympian Jesse Owens: "A lifetime of training for just 10 seconds."

- A new Hilton hotel featuring suites named after former England players and managers.

Bernstein described the facility as "inspirational" and said it made him feel optimistic about the future of the nation's football.

He said: "This is the pinnacle clearly - and we hope that this will be an inspiration in a number of ways.

"One of the main objects of this, possibly almost the main object, is to produce thousands of more highly-qualified coaches.

A look inside St George's Park

"There's a lot more happening in English football at the moment in terms of youth development. We're trying to move young players away from this physical side, of wanting to win too much when they're too young.

"We want more skill-based football, kids to enjoy their football more. There's a great deal aimed at that."

England's senior men's team have not won a major international tournament since the 1966 World Cup and have failed to reach a semi-final since the 1996 European Championship.

The women's side have made three World Cup quarter-finals and twice finished runners-up in the European Championship.

David Sheepshanks, chairman of St George's Park, said the new complex can help England close the gap on recent World Cup winners such as France and Spain.

"This is a place to inspire young people and young coaches to invest in themselves and go beyond just getting the badge," he said.

"The teachers of the game have the defining influence. We are investing in the teachers so that we can get ahead of what they are doing in France and Spain.

"This is a deliberately long-term view. Really it is the investment in coaches that is crucial and from 2020 onwards we will have winning England teams."