FA Chair David Bernstein described the opening of the new £105M ($168M) St. George's Park National Football Centre Tuesday as a "historic" day for the English game, according to Phil McNulty of the BBC. The new complex in Staffordshire will house all 24 England teams, from junior to senior levels. Bernstein said, "We have to get more players through who can be full England internationals and this is where it will happen. So much work has gone into this for so long and to see it now is fantastic." The 330-acre site was officially opened by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge,"who were "given a tour of the park." FA President Prince William said, "It gives me great pride we have created in this country facilities that are beyond compare anywhere else. St. George's Park is a concept totally new. It will provide more than just world-class facilities for our national team and more than a university from which hundreds of coaches will graduate. It will provide employment and a social hub for local people and will foster community spirit and purpose and hope throughout England." Among the facilities at St. George's Park are:
- A senior training pitch, laid out to the exact dimensions of the playing surface at Wembley Stadium and with exactly the same mix of grass and artificial fibers.
- 11 outdoor pitches, five of which are floodlit and have under-soil heating.
- A full-size indoor 3G artificial pitch with a viewing gallery for up to 200 people.
- An altitude chamber to mimic a variety of playing conditions.
FIT FOR THE FUTURE: In London, Owen Gibson wrote, "The FA has finally has a facility fit for the "Future Game" rhetoric." But the desired result will "take unprecedented co-operation between historically hostile factions." Gibson: "The FA's "coaching the coaches" mantra will need to dovetail with the professional game's elite player performance plan, under which the biggest teams have invested tens of millions in their own residential facilities to attract the best young players from around the country. At once keen to trumpet its success in finally getting the gleaming facility off the drawing board – banners proclaimed it "the future of English football" – and cautioning that it would take a decade for its effects to be fully felt, the FA was patting itself on the back while playing for time" (GUARDIAN, 10/9). Also in London, Gibson & Fifield wrote that England captain Steven Gerrard said future squads "will have no excuses for failing to deliver at major tournaments." Gerrard said the facilities at the 330-acre site were the best he's seen anywhere in the world. Gerrard: "I've been lucky enough to sample many facilities, but this blows them all out of the water" (GUARDIAN, 10/9).
ROYALTY AND SPORTING CELEBRITY: In London, Gordon Rayner reported that The Duke of Cambridge "enjoyed a joke at Ashley Cole's expense" as he met the England defender at the opening of the FA's new academy in Burton-upon-Trent. The Duke found himself next to Cole as the team lined up for a photograph with him and the Duchess of Cambridge, and as he turned to speak to the players afterward, found himself "face to face with the under-fire" Chelsea player. Faced with "a potentially awkward moment," the Duke grinned at Cole, and said: "If you continue to be a naughty boy they'll take your Twitter account off you." In response, Cole "covered his eyes with his hand, feigning embarrassment." The Duke, "clearly in a mischievous mood," also said during a speech to praise the work of those who built the center. He said, "I feel tempted to cry God for Harry, England and St. George, but I really don't want to lower the tone by bringing my brother into it" (TELEGRAPH, 10/9). Also in London, Valentine Low wrote: "As exchanges go, it may not have been the gesture of reconciliation which ended the fall-out from the Terry incident once and for all. It may not even have been the moment which transformed Cole from a sporting pariah into someone acceptable in polite society. But at least it ensured that any meeting between them did not overshadow a visit which should on paper have been a triumphant fusion of royalty and sporting celebrity" (LONDON TIMES, 10/9). Also in London, Fricker & Murphy wrote the Duchess of Cambridge went for "high street chic" on her visit to the FA's new training ground. Kate "kept it simple with a grey tailored coat by Reiss, a regular label in her wardrobe." But she "joked about putting on trainers for a kickabout" as she had a tour of the facility. The couple spent time chatting with England Manager Roy Hodgson and captain Steven Gerrard before watching the team train. Local Burton MP Andrew Griffiths said: "I asked if she was going to come for a kickabout later. She said 'Have you got a pair of trainers I can borrow?' I said 'It can be arranged.' She just laughed" (DAILY MIRROR, 10/9).