The National Football Centre has just been opened at St. George’s Park, yet there is the feeling that this is the FA’s £105m way of making up for England’s major international shortcomings in recent years.
Boasting 12 immaculate pitches both grass and astroturf, hydrotherapy hot and cold pools, an altitude cycle-training chamber, an elite changing room, top-of-the-range training gyms, an indoor sprint track, recovery and medical clinics, science suites that can work out your metabolism, video analysis and editing suites, coaching classrooms, two on-site hotels and a knock-your-socks-off replica indoor Wembley with a 200-seat gallery, St George’s Park is nonetheless an incredible gift for current and up-and-coming men’s and women’s squads.
Many critics have commented that the site is unnecessary and a was thorn in the FA’s side as it gathered dust when opening was halted and halted. Stuart Pearce, though expressionless, said positively in his BBC interview with Martin Keown; ‘if it takes us 3, 4 or 5 decades, it’s all worth it.’ Honestly, this didn’t inspire much confidence either. England need immediate results as well as a long-term game plan.
It seems that the wow-factor of the Park’s architecture, the Royal opening of its ready facilities and dream-like state of the very feng shui indoor Wembley have pulled the wool over our eyes hiding the fact that England have been dreadful in recent years.
True, the park has enormous potential for growth for players, including increased game education and phenomenal practise opportunities. Firm partnerships can evolve between country and clubs: Pearce: ‘Roy will be based here with the senior team, if he likes a couple of the under 21s then they can just pop across from pitch to pitch.’
England should be able to be right up there with other International teams like the Spanish who have such extensive youth national training camps connected to giant clubs like Barcelona themselves. If only Team GB had been able to use St. George’s Park prior to the London 2012 Olympics, they may not have lost so poorly to South Korea due to Sturridge’s trying-to-be-Pirlo-when-you’re-not penalty.
Similarly Ashley Young and Ashley Cole’s poor-choice penalties against Italy knocked crying England out at this year’s Euros in the Quarter Finals. England took revenge though in August this winning 2-1 in a friendly at the Stade de Suisse.
Unfortunately England have never really shone again since being best in the world in ’66 and third placed at the 1968 Euro’s. Losing painfully 4-1 to Germany in the 2010 World Cup was a sore memory especially after having Lampard’s crossbar-to-line goal disallowed before half time. This would have meant they would have gone into the second half 2-all and more positive.
When Roy came in before the Euros in May this year there was an aura of positivity surrounding the England camp. In his first two games as Head Coach, England won 1-0 against Belgium and Norway retrospectively, then this excitement dwindled as yet again England could not deliver on the international stage.
Friendlies against San Marino and Poland follow in October 2012, hopefully England can address their demons like lack of work ethic, gaping defence, poor penalty history and salaries over world class football even before they set foot onto indoor Wembley.
St George’s Park should not really be a holiday resort with a ten-minute kick about followed by a spa, mojito and a comfortable rest in a luxurious hotel which, in essence, it appears to be. If England ticket-payers are going to get value for money, the Park should rather be a bunk-bed boot camp with rigorous in-class sessions about strategy, discipline and passing-from-the-back. The nation is hungry for wins and could quite easily throw St George’s to the lions.
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