New centre can become football 'Mecca'
The national football centre at St George's Park has sent out a statement of intent to the rest of the world and will become a 'Mecca' for students of the game, according to chairman David Sheepshanks.
England teams, starting with the under-17s next month, can now begin using the £100million facility on the 330-acre site at Burton-upon-Trent. The Football Association devoted months to researching best practice in various sports around the globe, but now Sheepshanks hopes they will become the reference point for other nations.
"Hopefully the rest of the world will see this as a statement of intent by English football, which we will go on seeking to improve," he said. "It is a nerve-centre, a think-tank. I could almost say, if I was allowed to, a Mecca."
Sheepshanks added: "It is a meeting point for the game, a congregating nerve centre where it doesn't matter whether you are coaches, chief execs, physios, commercial directors, nutritionists - it is a place where the game can come together. We will welcome anyone who wants to come and we will be listening.
"One of the reasons we got here is because we listened to what everyone else told us, and we will go on listening because the day you think you have got to the top of the mountain is the day you start going down it."
Sheepshanks said the senior England team's failure at Euro 2008 was the tipping point which persuaded the FA to bring the site out of mothballs - it having been deemed too expensive - and complete the development.
But even since that moment four years ago, there have been other reminders just how far England have fallen behind the leading nations.
"When we didn't qualify for the Euros that was the starting point and then we had another sharp reminder in 2010 in South Africa (at the World Cup)," he added.
"We have had two big wake-up calls at two big tournaments in succession and now we have had another - not just England but other countries - from what Spain has taught us.
"Their performance in Kiev (in winning Euro 2012) has just confirmed the decisions taken in 2008 and 2010 to build St George's Park were absolutely the right ones."
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