It was a privilege to be at the opening of the FA’s National Football Centre, St George’s Park, in Burton-Upon-Trent on Wednesday in what was a big day for football in this country.
What a stunning facility, with its carpet like grass football pitches, all-weather and state-of-the-art indoor surfaces. Much credit has to go to the FA’s chairman of St George’s Park David Sheepshanks for his tireless hard work and dedication to this important project.
Many questions have been asked over the years as to why we don’t have a centre of football excellence like some of our European rivals, such as France with Clairefontaine or Italy’s Coverciano.
This debate normally follows England having been knocked out of a major tournament, but now we have our answer and, after joining the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the Culture Secretary Maria Miller to see it finished, I am convinced that we have something that other footballing nations will envy.
Nothing has been left to chance to create an environment that will get the very best of all those who use it. David Sheepshanks and his team have toured the world and spoken to experts across the board, to make sure we have the very best facilities on offer.
Alongside the world-class football pitches there is a sports medicine, rehabilitation and performance training centre that will be used by our top players.
But most importantly St George’s Park will be used to educate the next generation of coaches. We have put £6 million of public money into the facility, £3 million from the lottery through Sport England and £3 million from the DCMS, with the latter to go into coaching development and also to encourage more black and ethnic minority coaches to come through.
But it’s not just the England team and those studying for their coaching badges that will benefit from St George’s Park as it will also be opened up for use by the local community and schools.
I am determined to drive up sports participation at the grassroots and facilities such as St George’s Park are vital to help make that happen.
So with St George’s Park now officially open and the future of English football looking brighter I could think of no better way to celebrate than to start this new era with a convincing win against San Marino at Wembley tonight. I wish Roy Hodgson and the England team all the best for this World Cup qualifier.