UK & World News
Kate And William Open England Training HQ
England's stunning new £105m football training centre has been officially opened by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
St George's Park, just outside Burton-on-Trent in Staffordshire, boasts 11 outdoor pitches, world class gym and medical facilities, and will allow England teams to train on a pitch with the exact same grass measurements as Wembley.
From now on it will be the training base for all 24 England football teams, male and female, ahead of international fixtures.
Opening the centre, William and Kate were given a tour before joining the England squad and manager Roy Hodgson on a training pitch. The royal couple chatted to players including Steven Gerrard and Ashley Cole.
Afterwards, the Duke of Cambridge, who is the FA's president and a keen Aston Villa fan, made a speech in which he said he felt the same sense of pride and excitement at seeing the new facilities as he had when he visited the Olympic Park in London earlier in the year.
He added: "It will be far more than just a world class training facility for our future world-beating national team. It is more than just a university from which thousands of highly qualified coaches will graduate. It is also a magnificent example of the sort of social initiative that brings opportunity and purpose to wider British life."
David Sheepshanks, who has overseen the project for the Football Association, said the aim is to make St George's Park a beacon for nurturing and educating the best coaches and players in the country.
"I have no doubt that this will improve our chances of winning a World Cup," said Sheepshanks, chairman of St George's Park.
"This is a 10-12 year play before we really see the benefits. This is intended to become the Oxford and Cambridge of football education. We're trying to create a new generation of coaches who will be able to inspire a new generation of more technically adept players.
"In the Premier League it's all about tomorrow's result. This is a long-term play. Someone in the game has to take a long-term view and what a big statement this is from the FA."
Facilities on the site include a hydrotherapy pool where players can run with underwater cameras monitoring their every move, relaying the pictures back to a nearby TV screen where they can be analysed by coaches and physiotherapists.
There is also an oxygen chamber where England stars can train on bicycles, as if they were in a mountain range.
Famous sporting quotes from the likes of Mohammed Ali, Mo Farah, Ian Thorpe and Sir Clive Woodward are painted on the walls of the centre, providing motivation and inspiration for England's finest.
Sir Clive Woodward, the last English manager to win a World Cup - albeit in rugby union - asks the question: "How do you want to be remembered?"
Sheepshanks is adamant that this massive investment in all aspects of the game will boost the country's footballing prospects.
"This is accessible to the world of football, to elite teams and local teams. What goes on here will permeate and cascade down to the grassroots, I'm convinced of this," he said.
St George's Park will also be made available for visiting countries and clubs who require a world class training facility while they are in the UK.
There are two hotels on the site providing more than 200 bedrooms, with pictures of England greats like Sir Bobby Charlton, Gary Lineker, Jimmy Greaves, Paul Gascoigne and David Beckham adorning the walls.
Critics will point out that Italy, France and Spain have all had similar centres up and running for decades, but if St George's Park can reap the kind of results they have seen there will not be any complaints from England fans.