Football centre is vital to future of English game

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The planned National Football Centre is vital to boost the number of English players in the game, according to the chairman of the League Managers Association, Howard Wilkinson.

The centre at Burton is back on the agenda after the scheme received significant backing from the Football Association yesterday. Wilkinson, 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, said: "The national football centre was not intended to be a replacement for club academies."

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, the manager, Martin Jol, has reportedly fallen out with the sporting director, Damien Comolli.

Wilkinson said: "I have hardly met a person who 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."

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