Saint George’s Flag Flying High
It has taken 56 years since England’s golden glories in 1966, for the English Football Association to finally deliver a Football National Centre based in Staffordshire. The St George’s flag of the Three Lions will loom large over English football’s HQ, and will be hugely significant in terms of the country’s football development. This magnificent facility has 11 outdoor pitches, with one being of a Wembley replicated pitch, alongside one full scale indoor pitch with a running track and a community pitch named after David Beckham. An altitude chamber is another intriguing concept, with physio and safety/health facilities, the cost, a staggering 160 million pounds.
All these facilities run adjacent to a 5 star hotel, of which the hotel suites are named after the highest profiled names in the history of English football, with Bobby More, Geoff Hurst, Paul Gascoigne and Peter Shilton being amongst the names, for the record, Shilton is England’s most capped player, with 125 caps, spanning over 20 years.
The basic concept of St George’s is to be the focal point for mainly former players to study the coaching ethos, with possible coaches from around the country being trained as well. In the main, the quality of the coach is more important than the quantity. There are currently 6000 coaches in England, with grass roots level being their focal point. The focus has previously outlined in an earlier edition, of possible changes, which in my opinion, would improve the learning curve at schoolboy level. English football in general and the Three Lions hope to benefit over a 10 year period.
To compare England with other major footballing nations reveals the previous dinosaurous thinking of the FA. World and European champions Spain built the La Ciudad del Fútbol centre in 1997, but not before France had eclipsed the Spanish 10 years earlier with the Clairefontaine facility, the result, France were crowned world champions in 1998. The Italians covet the Coverciano national centre, which incorporates a museum, with all the fineries of Italian football history, while Germany revolve around central regulated academies, which envelopes all 36 clubs from the top two leagues.
The football association have delivered, the sands of football time will show if St George’s can deliver, the lifting of the World Cup will satisfy! “They think it’s all over, it is now” those famous commentary words, as the great Sir Geoff Hurst dispatched England’s fourth goal, and Hurst’s third goal. As it stands today, Sir Geoff is the only player on the planet to have scored a hat-trick in a World Cup final, and is recognised as the ultimate ambassador for all that is English. Sir Geoff candidly commented, that not one of the current crop of England internationals have enquired about his World Cup triumphant experiences during 1966.
Personally that would be my first point of call, I would want to imagine what it was like to lift the World Cup and score the golden goals and re-create that special moment. Can England reach that summit again? Sir Geoff questions the players’ priorities and desire for the ultimate prize in football. You are always remembered as a World Cup winner worldwide, but as a club player perhaps not, this bestows the chosen few. The present national team must raise the bar, reach those levels, it can be done, we have the quality, believe, all that is ‘gold’ can be England’s, ‘World Champions’.