England's captain, Steven Gerrard, has warned that future squads will have no excuses for failing to deliver at major tournaments following the official unveiling of the Football Association's new £105m St George's Park facility.
After spending his first night at the national football centre with the senior squad, and playing some part in training on the replica Wembley pitch on Tuesday, Gerrard said he was "blown away" by the facilities. "All the lads are buzzing to be here," the midfielder said. "We're lucky to have facilities like this. It's a long-term plan and hopefully it can bring success to the national teams.
"The key to this place is to get the best coaches coaching the young children coming through. But there's no better place in the world to come and learn.
"We spoke in the summer about possession and how we're going to keep the ball better. But now we've got the best stadium in the world and the best facilities. We're taking away all the excuses the players might use in the future."
Gerrard said the state-of-the-art facilities at the 330-acre site were the best he has seen anywhere in the world: "I've been lucky enough to sample many facilities, but this blows them all out of the water."
The FA chairman, David Bernstein, who has made the project a priority since inheriting it from his predecessor Lord Triesman, said in the short term it would give the England side more togetherness. They will be based at the centre in east Staffordshire before every home game, before travelling the 132 miles to Wembley.
"Club England wants to try and get as close as it can to the feel, atmosphere and togetherness of a football club," said the former Manchester City chairman. "I've got experience of that in the past. St George's Park will be one of the elements that helps us do that."
The FA hopes that by basing all 24 of its representative squads at St George's Park it will develop a common culture across all of them.
"We'll always have that grey area between club and country, but by bringing all sections of the game here together regularly, this will have a cohesive effect of creating better understanding," said David Sheepshanks, the St George's Park chairman, who has driven the completion of the project.
"When young international teams come here at Under-15s or Under-16s they will have standards and all elements of their development will be considered and supported."
Sir Trevor Brooking, the FA's director of football development, said that sense of togetherness would also help young players develop psychologically as well as physically. "Some people think they've made it at 15 or 16 when they arrive at a club. You have to try and make them realise they've not done anything yet."
In the long term, the FA has promised that the courses delivered at St George's Park will redress the huge imbalance in the number of licensed coaches compared to other European nations and help force a change in the culture of the game.
Bernstein said in his speech to open the centre that he hoped it would become "an Oxbridge of football" and Sheepshanks outlined its role in dovetailing with the elite player performance plan adopted by the professional game.
"We were not trying to create a new Lilleshall, or a St George's Park to develop players," Sheepshanks said. "What they did want was for us to invest in the education, the coach education.
"We believe the long-term result of the investment in education will be to improve players. We're not trying to take over the Football League or the Premier League's role, but roll the dice forward: give this time to materialise and that's when you get the benefit. Long term."
Roy Hodgson agreed that the new facility, which has been on the drawing board since 2001, was overdue – partly "because the FA have invested so much money in Wembley". The England manager said: "Today we have a fantastic national stadium and a fantastic national training centre. Facilities, in themselves, don't make you a better football team. What makes you better is the work you do within them.
"The players will be really happy to do their work here. If I was a young coach starting out and I was taken to SGP for two weeks to learn my trade, it would be a wonderful experience. That'll be an advantage to us."
Despite the nods to history around St George's Park, including pitches named after famous players of the recent past including Gary Lineker, Michael Owen and David Beckham, Hodgson said it was important to start looking forward.
"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."
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