England captain Steven Gerrard 'blown away' by St George's Park

 

Skipper Steven Gerrard insists England will have no excuses for future under-achievement now the National Football Centre has become their new home.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge officially opened the impressive £105million complex near Burton-on-Trent after meeting head coach Roy Hodgson and members of the England squad.

The project, which was first mooted more than a decade ago, has already created a favourable impression with Gerrard ahead of Friday's World Cup qualifier with San Marino at Wembley.

The Liverpool star said: "The place has blown me away. All the lads are buzzing to be here. We're lucky to have facilities like this.

"It's a long-term plan and hopefully it can bring success to the national teams.

"Now we've got the best stadium in the world (in Wembley) and the best facilities. We're taking away all the excuses the players might use in the future."

Head coach Roy Hodgson believes the complex can only help England's hopes of tournament glory.

He said: "Facilities, in themselves, don't make you a better football team. What makes you better is the work you do within them.

"But the players will be really happy to do their work here. We have to forget the past. We can't win a World Cup yesterday.

"As soon as we start working towards a World Cup we can win, the better - and I'm rather hoping the amount of effort and work we'll put in will lead us to that World Cup victory."

William, who shared a joke with left-back Ashley Cole, also took immense pride from the facilities which form the 330-acre site.

He 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."

St George's Park chairman David Sheepshanks has stressed the need to produce more coaches and of a higher quality to get the best out of English footballing talent.

But Sheepshanks is aware the benefits of the facilities will be mainly felt long-term and hopes it will eventually lead to more English managers being given an opportunity in the professional game.

He said: "If you were starting an educational establishment or a new school, do you start with the pupils or the teachers?

"You have to invest in the teachers. They have to have something extra to impart to the players and this is where St George's Park comes in.

"Between now and 2020, we'll develop another 250,000 coaches altogether across all the levels. At the top level, we're focused on quality not quantity.

"We're talking about another 120 Uefa Pro Licence coaches over the next eight years, an average of 15-20 a year at the very, very top level."

PA

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