England to begin building national football center
A day after England was comprehensively outplayed by France's youngsters, the Football Association announced Thursday that a training complex and academy designed to emulate its cross-Channel rival's Clairefontaine base will finally be built.
The FA board gave approval for building to begin in January, almost a decade after plans for England's first national football center were initially unveiled.
From midway through 2012, the 105 million-pound ($168-million) complex will be the base for all of England's national teams, as well as the specialist coaches that the FA hopes will develop the next generation of talent.
England hasn't won a major title since the World Cup was staged at home in 1966, and the team was knocked out of this year's tournament in South Africa in the second round after being routed 4-1 by Germany's vibrant, young side.
''This project will be transformational,'' FA general secretary Alex Horne said in a statement. ''It will effect a fundamental change in the way that football is taught and will help to transmit consistent values across game.''
St. George's Park in Burton-on-Trent, central England, will have 12 pitches - including one synthetic and indoor - plus sports medicine and sports science facilities, two hotels and a conference center.
Clairefontaine was set up after France failed to qualify for the 1994 World Cup. The French went on to win the 1998 edition at home and the 2000 European Championship.
Several products of Clairefontaine featured in France's 2-1 victory against England on Wednesday, including Karim Benzema, who opened the scoring at Wembley Stadium.
England coach Fabio Capello used the match to test young players, with Andy Carroll and Jordan Henderson making their first appearances. But the English lacked the technical ability of the French, struggling to retain possession and trouble the visitors.
Capello's first home loss since taking charge in January 2008 provoked a wave of media criticism.
''All the time I have been reading, 'You have to put the young players in, young players, young players,''' Capello said after the match. ''This time I put the young players in and we are speaking about the result and the difference between the English and French players.
''These young players are the future of England. I monitored these players in the Premier League. I know their value, but I also have to understand what really happens when they play with the seniors ... it is important to improve and to stay together.''
By the time St. George's Park opens, the likes of Henderson, defender Kieran Gibbs and midfielder Jack Wilshere should be first-choice England players.
The focus at the football center will be educating coaches capable of nurturing technically gifted players from the age of five.
''We have to start producing top-quality coaches for the younger groups because we are not developing technical youngsters,'' Trevor Brooking, the FA's director of development and a former England midfielder, said earlier this year.
''The long-ball game has to be a thing of the past if we're going to be successful. Look at other countries' back fours - they are all comfortable on the ball.''