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Mar 11, 2011

Brooking hopes for revolution

Sir Trevor Brooking hopes the new National Football Centre can spark a revolution in English football that will see a doubling of the number of English players in the Premier League.

Building work on the new centre at Burton-on-Trent, named St George's Park, officially began at a turf-cutting ceremony on Friday, though in reality the bulldozers moved in four weeks ago.

Other work has been going on even longer, with Natural England insisting on the capture and relocation of 380 rare newts to another part of the park, with a mile-long plastic 'newt fence' constructed to stop the creatures returning.

For Brooking, the FA's director of football development, this represents the start of a ten-year plan to change the traditional English style of football, boost the number of English players in the top flight, and put the national team on a similar level to the likes of Spain and Germany.

Brooking said: "It is a revolution and it is up to everyone to buy into it.

"At the top level we should have more than 30%-odd of English players in the Premier League every week, they should be there on merit, but we need to get up to 60 or 70% like they have in Spain. That's a challenge for us - to get it to double what it is now."

The NFC will be the base for all England teams - there are 27 all told at the various age levels - and will also be a centre for coaching excellence and sports science.

Brooking admitted there are hurdles to overcome in terms of the culture and the weather if English football is to become more like that shown by Barcelona and the Spanish national team.

He added: "Our facilities are not of the quality they should be. We perhaps also need to do more with young players in the months of May and June - foreign coaches come over here and are amazed at what we are trying to do with youngsters on a quagmire in January, or even on an all-weather pitch when they are shivering in temperatures of -1."

But Brooking said the success of the England Under-17 team last year showed what could be achieved.

"They won all 14 matches they played and they passed the ball really well so to say English youngsters cannot develop technical skills is absolute nonsense if they are brought up in the right way," he said. "But we do not have the depth of talent of Spain. At the top level this is how the game is going to be played in the future and it is up to the coaches to develop those skills.

"I hope this centre will be a catalyst and an inspiration for that to happen."

David Sheepshanks, the chairman of the NFC, said the £100 million development should be completed by the summer of 2012.

He said: "This is a relatively straightforward build and it's a great goal if we could be ready in time for the Olympic football squads to be based here ahead of the Games, though we cannot guarantee that.

"This is a momentous day, not only for the FA but for everybody who has football in their hearts."

The Hilton group is constructing a hotel on the site with the FA guaranteeing to fill a fixed number of rooms every year.

FA general secretary Alex Horne, who last year persuaded the professional and national game to each contribute £6 million towards the NFC, said the centre should be self-financing after five years.

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