The Irish FA needs to drive forward its plans for a high class National Training Centre.
That’s the view of the Association’s former president Jim Shaw as the governing body is preparing to launch a new corporate strategy later in the year.
With Conrad Kirkwood succeeding David Martin as the new Irish FA president, there must be a renewed focus on the development of football in Northern Ireland with a particular emphasis on enhancing or creating new facilities.
Despite the redevelopment of Windsor Park, a National Training Centre has failed to materialise and that investment must be found to create a new impressive facility both for the international side and the opportunity to provide training camps as part of the 2030 UK-Ireland World Cup bid.
Shaw, who stepped down as president after Northern Ireland’s remarkable Euro 2016 campaign, said: “The Irish FA will be working on their strategy and several major projects will be looked at. I would imagine the Training Centre is definitely one if the money is available.
“A high class training centre for the international team could also be used to host one of the big World Cup teams.
“Since the stadium was developed, the Training Centre has been talked about and with the world of football changing you have to change with it.
“Since we can’t host World Cup matches, we would be an obvious candidate for training matches. When the Euros were on in 1996 champions Germany had their training camp here.
“We are on the doorstep of the mainland and Dublin so such camps are a real possibility.
“Countries have high standards and we would need to have high class facilites.
“If we could get our Training Centre up and running it would be attractive to the big nations.
“It was part of the £32.1m that was set aside for football, the big money was the stadium, but the further regional investment hasn’t happened. An under-21 tournament would certainly be doable as it doesn’t need big capacities.”