English Football’s “Mecca” – The National Football Centre

Sitting in the opulent green countryside of East Staffordshire, unused and unspoilt, is St. George’s Park, the nucleus of the future of English Football. With an interminable list of state-of-the-art facilities available, the centre of excellence is set to provide a springboard to take the state of the nation’s most popular sport and launch it into eventual triumph. David Sheepshanks, joint acting Chairman of the FA has described the Centre as the “Mecca” of English Football; certainly an assured statement from the man who gave the green light for FA funding. However, after yet another mediocre performance from the national team this summer and with the rapid decline of national talent plying its trade in the Premier League, this may be the perfect time to have invested £105 million into renovating Football in this country.

“The backcloth to the quest for sporting excellence” as is so astutely phrased in the official website of St George’s Park, is certainly a valid description of the Centre. 11 outdoor pitchers along with 1 indoor pitch that is an exact replica of the dimensions of Wembley, an indoor running track as well as a sports hall for Futsal, Hydrotherapy suites, Seminar rooms, Strength and Conditioning gyms, Biomechanics and screening areas, individual Goalkeeping Areas along with many other facilities make the Burton Centre for excellence not only a revolutionary residence but a reference point for other nations to admire.

Sheepshanks adhered to the fact that recent English campaigns have been incredibly average and that we need to begin chasing the likes of Spain and Germany who, for the first time, are in a whole different class to England. To achieve a level playing field with the world’s greatest, a technical director is set to be appointed, who will oversee the activities at the Centre of Excellence from grass roots to senior national team. When asked about this forthcoming appointment, Sheepshanks stated,

“The appointment is almost as important (as building St George’s Park) when you consider the job of the future development of the game,”

He continued, “I think it will be someone who is very forward-thinking and committed to the long-term success of English football. Trevor Brooking has said we need to develop more technically-adept players but also more responsible, thinking players who are decision-makers.”

“He is absolutely right and the ethos of St George’s Park will be to focus on those skills, but also to encourage a sense of personal ownership and responsibility for career development.”

The factors for building the centre have a somewhat substantial emphasis on allowing players the capability to path their own futures rather than be spoon-fed. Taking personal ownership of a career would allow a player to flourish in his desired method, whilst also finding their own identities on the pitch that they are personally satisfied with. Too long have coaches in this country attempted to feed the long ball system to young talent, who adhere to the tactic for a number of years because they have not learnt otherwise. The centre is planning to eradicate these methods through player personal ownership, giving a somewhat free reign on how footballers play.

The centre will also be an arena where new English coaches will be trained, with Sheepshanks admitting that through the centre’s prominence, there need never be a foreign manager coaching the national team again. The reason for Roy Hodgson’s projected 4-year tenure may be to allow the team to gain experience with an English coach; step one in the building blocks of future English national team managers, who will have all proceeded through St George’s Park.

It has to be considered an exciting taste of the future when the Centre of Football opens its gates to respective parties. However, this is a long term venture and the felt effects of the St George’s may not be realised for a number of years yet. However, it is a real step forward in the future of the land where the beautiful game was created and just as its namesake did, St George’s Park will go down in English history with legendary status.