The Football Association was still basking in the warm glow of royal benediction yesterday, but a man who was produced by one of the world's best youth development programmes, and is now an architect of one of its most ambitious, yesterday warned it would take at least a decade for St George's Park to bear fruit.
More alarmingly, Patrick Vieira also suggested that young English footballers no longer dream of playing for their national team. "When I grew up in France, I wanted to play for the French team," he said. "I don't think this is the same for young players in England. "I don't understand how come so many young players from the age of 16 to 21 pull out of the national teams through injury. I don't think the young players are dreaming of playing for England."
Michael Owen rejected Vieira's suggestion, and said: "I think international football still means as much to the players, but has lost a bit of sparkle to the general public because the Premier League is so big," said the Stoke striker.
"The man in the street may think it is all rosy but it isn't easy playing for England. There is the pressure, and the time spent away from your family sat in your hotel room staring at four white walls 10 hours a day. It is mentally draining. I've heard many players talking before games about what the papers will say about them, or whether they are going to be booed. At club level you feel loved."
Vieira praised the FA for "finally doing something" and said the National Football Centre was "better late than never", but he cautioned: "With [France's] Clairefontaine, producing someone like Thierry Henry, it took about 10 years. Everyone is talking about Spain now, but Barcelona have been working on this for the last 30 years. You have to be patient."
Clairefontaine, France's equivalent of SGP, opened in 1988. Ten years later, Vieira was part of the team that lifted the World Cup, going on to win the European Championship two years later. Vieira is now the Football Development Executive at Manchester City's multi-million-pound academy.Reuse content