The English Football Association's (FA) national football centre – St George's Park – has been officially opened by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
St George's Park, set in 330 acres of countryside in Staffordshire in England's Midlands, will become a premier sporting destination for coaches, players, administrators and officials from English football. Home to 24 representative England teams, St George's Park will be a haven of learning, training and self-improvement. Featuring hotels, a full-size replica pitch and indoor 3G pitch, it is intended as the practical and spiritual home of FA Learning, the educational arm of the FA.
England manager Roy Hodgson, speaking to UEFA.com at the recent UEFA Conference for European National Team Coaches in Warsaw, is looking forward to working at the centre. "I'm delighted that the FA has gone ahead with this major project," he said. "I'm really hoping it is going to make a major difference to peoples' perception of the importance of coaching, getting players at a young age, making clear to them what you want from them, working very much on not only the technical side of their game, but [also] the tactical and understanding side of their game. Now, of course, we have the perfect environment for that, and I'm hoping that it will help all the national teams."
The centre should benefit the component parts of English football, from basic educational needs through to the elite game, and offer an inspirational and inclusive learning environment. Football teams of all levels will also be able to use the facilities at St George's, including the 12 outdoor pitches, the multi-sport indoor facility, and the state-of-the-art sports medicine, rehabilitation and performance training centre.
Hodgson believes that St George's will motivate the younger up-and-coming players aspiring to great things in the future. "They'll get a lot of inspiration," he reflected, "because as you walk around, there are lots of pictures, where you are looking at the great players from the past, the great figures from the past, you're reading quotes from these people. But the main inspiration will come from the playing services, the quality of the hotel, in particular the quality of the sports science facilities, which are quite incredible.
"I think the fact that they know it's also the home of the first national team, that also will be something which should inspire players," Hodgson added, "because they should be thinking at Under-16, Under-17 level: 'This is where I am going to be in four to five years' time when the national coach picks me to play in the first team.' So we have high hopes."
Matching the standards of the leading European sides is one of the objectives now that the centre is up and running. "I don't think we will be let down by the facility at all, and now it's a question of what work we, the coaches in England, can do within the facility to make certain we produce players of the quality which certainly we have seen the Spanish produce over the last ten to 12 years, and Germany for that matter. That's our goal, and we can't complain any more that we haven't got the right facilities to achieve the goal."
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