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Oct 9, 2012

St George's Park gets royal opening

England's national football centre at St George's Park was finally officially opened on Tuesday by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

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The £105 million complex, near Burton upon Trent in Staffordshire, will serve as a centre of excellence for all English football at all levels.

All 24 men's and women's national teams across all age groups will be based at the centre, the idea for which was originally conceived more than 30 years ago.

Although the men's senior team began training there on Monday ahead of Friday's 2014 World Cup qualifier against San Marino at Wembley, the centre was only officially opened on Tuesday by Prince William, the president of the FA, and his wife Kate.

It is hoped that the centre will one day yield similar results to the Clairefontaine centre in France, which was opened in 1988 and ushered through the generation of players which won Les Bleus the World Cup a decade later.

David Sheepshanks, a non-executive member of the FA board, talked up the importance of the coaching and sports science aspects of the centre.

He said: "Through sports medicine and sports science, we can concentrate on, how do we shave millimetres off so the ball goes in instead of hitting the post?

"How do we prepare players better mentally and psychologically, how do we instil the discipline in players so that they take more personal ownership of their own career development, how do we train players to have that extra bit of puff to make that last attacking run that scores the winning goal, or the last-ditch tackle that saves one?"

Sheepshanks also hopes that the multi-million pound investment may finally end the England team's struggles with penalty shootouts at major tournaments.

"Penalty shoot-outs will also be part of it," he added. "That is part of the psychological and technical preparation, and this is the first time England has ever had its own permanent training home in which to put these things into action across all the teams."

FA chairman David Bernstein said he hoped the facility would also help England produce many more qualified coaches and change the very nature of the way the game is played in the country.

"This is the pinnacle clearly," he said, "and we hope that this will be an inspiration in a number of ways. One of the main objects of this, possibly almost the main object, is to produce thousands of more highly-qualified coaches.

"There's a lot more happening in English football at the moment in terms of youth development.

"We're trying to move young players away from this physical side, of wanting to win too much when they're too young.

"We want more skill-based football, kids to enjoy their football more, and there's a great deal aimed at that."

ST GEORGE'S PARK FACTS

*The centre holds 11 outdoor pitches, five of which have undersoil heating and are floodlit.

*The senior training pitch has been marked out in the exact same dimensions as the field at Wembley Stadium.

*Up to 200 can watch players training on a full-size indoor 3G pitch.

*Goalkeepers will be coached in a dedicated practice and training area.

*Players will be put through their paces on a 60-metre indoor running track.

*There is also a 30-metre outdoor training, set at a 20-degree slope.

*The players will stay in a four-star, 142-room Hilton hotel, one of two on the site.

*The sports medicine centre, called Perform, is planned to become a world-class research facility.

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