Belfast Telegraph

Home News UK

Royal couple meet football stars

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have rubbed shoulders with England's football stars as they opened a soccer centre of excellence intended to revolutionise the national game.

William and Kate joined England manager Roy Hodgson and his squad at the Football Association's new £105 million St George's Park complex which aims to produce coaches and players to rival world and European champions Spain.

Household names such as Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard broke off from a training session to chat to the royals who toured the 330-acre site near Burton upon Trent, Staffordshire, for two hours.

On a practice pitch, the Duke and Duchess shared a joke with Gerrard, captain of the England team which plays a World Cup qualifier match against San Marino on Friday, and also met Ashley Cole - at the centre of a twitter row after posting a tweet criticising the FA.

In a speech to mark the opening of the new complex, William praised the development saying its benefits would be felt far beyond the world of football.

Speaking before unveiling a plaque with his wife to officially launch the site, he said: "St George's Park, and the concept that underpins it, is something totally new. It will be far more than just a world-class facility for training our future world-beating national team.

"It is more than just the university from which thousands of highly qualified coaches will graduate. It is also a magnificent example of the sort of social initiative that brings opportunity and purpose to wider British life."

The FA hopes St George's Park, where coaches will be coached, will improve the quality of football leaders in the dugout and in turn boost the performance of players on the pitch, both for their clubs and the national side.

All of England's 24 national teams will use the site as their training base ahead of international fixtures and the country's top football stars were put through their paces at the centre for the first time.

The facility has 11 external pitches, a dedicated practice and training area for goalkeepers, a sports pavilion for post-training de-briefs and a world-class sports and exercise medicine, human performance and research centre.


From Belfast Telegraph