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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Sep 25, 2007

National Football Centre is vital, insists Wilkinson

The planned National Football Centre is a vital step to boost the number of English players in the game, according to league managers chief Howard Wilkinson.

The centre at Burton is back on the agenda, after the scheme received significant backing from Football Association chiefs yesterday.

Wilkinson, the chairman of the League Managers' Association and the man who conceived the scheme while FA technical director, said: 'The centre was meant to be the headquarters of the development side of the FA, and we need it if we are to check the current trend in importing foreign players.

'How can we bid for a World Cup when we don't have a national football centre where the national teams can train?

'How can we claim to be the organisation that will change the face of this sport when we have people working as nomads?'

There is still opposition to the centre being built at all - opponents have argued that the academies at Premier League clubs fulfil most of the functions of a national football centre.

Wilkinson, however, says: 'The national football centre was not intended to be a replacement for club academies - that is misinformation spread by who knows who.'

Proposals for the centre at Burton had been mothballed for more than a year, but the FA board yesterday revived the scheme.

The completion of Wembley stadium and a brighter picture for the FA's finances mean some of the pressures against the centre's development have been removed.

Officials from the FA will now draw a series of final proposals for the scheme.

Meanwhile, Wilkinson stated his belief that too many clubs are appointing directors of football without making it clear what their responsibilities are.

The issue has become a hot potato following Avram Grant's move from that role to succeed Jose Mourinho at Chelsea - while at Tottenham, manager Martin Jol has reportedly fallen out with sporting director Damien Comolli.

Wilkinson said: 'I have hardly met a person who really understands what the role is. The role should be to protect the interests of the football club and ensure the long-term strategy is being worked through.

'Most people do not employ a director of football to do that and do not clearly explain that relationship to the manager.

'In my view too many directors of football are appointed when there's not enough care given to explaining their role and responsibilities.'

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