Managers from across the game have underlined the importance of St.George’s Park for the whole English game – not just the national team.
Paul Lambert and Chris Powell joined Nigel Clough and Keith Curle in championing the philosophy and facilities at The FA’s new National Football Centre, which officially opened in Burton-upon-Trent last week.
The new £105 million training home for England’s 24 teams is reliant on the game coming together to share ideas to create a coaching culture to improve the overall quality of English football.
And Charlton Athletic manager, Chris Powell, who represented England five times, believes all levels of the English game now have a base to be proud of.
He said: “I think we’ve always needed an identity for the game, not only the England team, but the game as a whole at all levels – grassroots, non-league, professional.
“We have a centre to be proud of where we are going to educate not only players, but coaches.
“It’s a wonderful achievement for us. It’s been a long time due but it’s here now and it’s up to us to use it and enhance our game the way we want to.
“We’ve got a centre where people can get around the table and talk about how we can move the game forward.”
Amongst other targets, The FA aim to qualify 230,000 new Level 1 and 2 coaches and 52,000 FA Youth Award coaches in the first eight years.
The majority of these coaches will work at the grassroots level of the game.
And the Addicks’ boss believes coaches and volunteers will relish the opportunity to be part of the development.
He said: “We do have a lot of people who love the game, who haven’t played the game professionally, and they want to be involved.
“You can always talk about the money and the facilities, but it’s not always about that, it’s about the people. It’s about giving people the right opportunity to coach, to get their awards and licences and to move forward.”
Aston Villa manager Lambert echoed Powell’s thoughts on coach development, stressing the importance of patience if St. George’s Park is to make a difference.
He said: “There is a great saying that ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’, and I think St. George’s Park time will be in a few years’ time.
“It is a start though and you have to start somewhere. So, in a few years, I think it will begin to take off. I think it is a fantastic facility.”
Lambert joined Powell in underlining the importance of the grassroots game. It is there, after all, where most international players start.
He added: “I think that is paramount really to get good coaches to transfer their knowledge to players at grassroots level, so that is a big, big issue and I think it is important to get that right.
“There is a good opportunity to develop that and hopefully bring it to fruition.”
In addition to the England teams’ training programmes and FA coach education courses, other clubs and sports will be encouraged to use the 330-acre site.
Two managers who have experienced the impressive facilities are Derby County manager Clough and Notts County boss Curle.
Clough, who was both player-manager and manager of Burton Albion between 1998 and 2009, used the facilities with the Brewers whilst the site was still under development.
He said: “We trained there for two or three years when I was at Burton so we could give The FA feedback on the pitches.
“We were very lucky to use it. If you get such a good facility to train on, it helps going into a Saturday. I think it’s great for everyone around Burton and the Midlands.”
Curle added: "The players will eat there, change there and the pitches are fantastic. They are all replicas of Wembley.
“It will really encourage the players to get the ball down and play. It's a fantastic facility, an exceptional place and we're very lucky to be able to train there.”