With Wembley now opened, and the answer to the question “how do you solve a problem like McClaren” coming in the form of ex-Juventus and Roma boss Fabio Capello, the gentleman’s club that is the FA have found a new project into which they can no doubt inject a comedy of errors.
Unlike a stadium and first team manager appointments however, these errors won’t be quite so funny, as the FA look to stifle the nations young football talent over bureaucracy , personal preference ,and the opinions of senior management members who hark back to the good old days and wish to not encourage a new ‘baby Bentley’ generation. To date, the FA have pumped in £25million to the site that sits in the Staffordshire countryside, not too far away from Burton Albion’s home ground and a side managed by Nigel Clough, son of one of the greatest team bosses ever to hit English football.
The dream of a National Football Centre, one where young talent from across the nation can come to eat, drink, and sleep football must surely be one of the greatest ideas since the concept of selling beer inside stadiums.
Le Centre Technique National Fernand Sastre or ‘Clairefontaine’ for a short nickname is the home of the French FA’s football development centre. The 56-acre site includes Indoor and outdoor pitches, gyms, a medical centre and restaurant are all features of the centre, something which some English Premiership clubs have only recently invested in. What should be noticed is that Clairefontaine has been open since 1998. 10 years later, the French National Team was hoisting the World Cup Trophy aloft in the Stade De France.
The National Football Centre for England, if given the same opportunities for growth and development would no doubt bring similar results, when the project was mothballed in 2004 due to the Wembley Fiasco, the infrastructure for the site, alongside the 12 outdoor, floodlit pitches were already complete. Whilst continuation of the project will likely cost a further £80m (to give you an idea, Wembley cost 9 times as much,) it would add 300 accommodation places, an indoor pitch with full television facilities so that training could be analysed ‘on the fly,’ areas for the countries top sports scientists and football coaches to learn and to teach others. All of this for the benefit of this countries top footballers and support staff, all aware from the bright lights, glitz and glamour that surrounds professional football today!
So what’s the problem?
Firstly, Wembley is a big problem. It is believed that the final cost of Wembley was around the £750million mark, another £80million, on top of what they are paying to employ Fabio Capello doesn’t grow on trees. It is unlikely, with the 2012 Olympics being hosted in London that much Government funding will come the way of an association whose catalogue of errors has seen the national men’s team Fifa World Ranking dip perilously close to that of their Scottish neighbours.
Secondly, some of the supposed ‘top officials’ at the FA don’t actually believe that having such a focused, dedicated centre would be of any use! BBC ousted Football League chairman Lord Mawhinney and Premier League chairman Sir David Richards as objectors to the project. I guess there’s little money to be made from coaching young people!
Moving onto club chairmen now, the 1993 film Cliff-hanger would have been considerably shorter had Gabe Walker (Sylvestre Stallone) had the same grip on the rock face, as Ipswich Town chairman David Sheepshanks has on reality. Mr Sheepshanks believes that the centre, easily reached from most places in England in less than 3 hours shouldn’t be situated in the Midlands, and should be closer to London. Mr Sheepshanks, you are a fool. Football fans that don’t live the South side of Watford Gap are already miffed regarding the fact that England’s “national” stadium is situated in the capital. To give you an idea, should Newcastle ever make it to a cup final (unlikely, but you never know), the Magpies will have to make a 340mile round trip!
Moving onto the managerial ‘experts,’ Derby County boss Paul Jewell cast doubts over the point in a national centre of excellence, a move not entirely surprising as his former club Wigan have no academy of their own.
‘I think young players have got too much too quickly.’
‘I’m not just talking about money either. I’m talking about the great training facilities and taking it as read that they don’t have to do any boot-cleaning.’
That’ll be because young people want to play football, not scrub some £40,000/week prima donnas muddy boots Paul!
It seems baffling that the FA would stifle youth development in this country for the sake of a few narrow-minded individuals who fail to see the benefit of having a centre to be proud of, and for the young footballers of today to develop with some of the best facilities in the world.
FA Development boss Trevor Brooking believes it may be already too late for the next generation:
‘I think a lot of older players in the system are damaged goods because technically they’re not able to cope with the demands,’ he conceded.
‘If you can’t play it from the back, or in tight areas, it doesn’t matter how good the coach is, you’re not going to make it.’
Football Association, it’s over to you.