For the last seven days, as a residential student at an Irish FA run coaching course in south Belfast, I've been heavily immersed in a packed programme to obtain my A Licence.
It's been an intense week of workshops, presentations, practical displays on the pitch and information overload as I, along with my fellow classmates, start a year long process to achieve the coaching qualification which I require to hopefully further my career in the game.
The Irish FA base their course at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Shaw's Bridge and then we use the pitches at The Dub for the practical demonstrations.
I've been mightily impressed by the standard of accommodation, the level of service at the hotel, the facilities on offer and the top-notch gym. Then when I look out from the hotel, I see the excellent pitches and facilities on offer at Cooke Rugby Club.
Eight months ago, during the first week of the new year, I stated in this column how vital it was for Northern Ireland football to have a Centre of Excellence, a training complex which could be used by the entire IFA family.
I wanted it to be a priority for the IFA in 2020. Now, obviously the Covid-19 pandemic has changed the sporting landscape completely and pushed everything back, but it should not be forgotten about because we are really are falling behind other countries in Europe. And having travelled all over Europe with Northern Ireland as a senior international, it truly is embarrassing we don't have the modern facilities required.
For so long a National Training Centre has been mooted, with the Blanchflower Stadium and the surrounding land viewed as the ideal place. Former Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill even took myself and Aaron Hughes on a tour to show us his vision for the place and we were impressed, but there could be an alternative and it would just be a short distance from Windsor Park.
Cooke Rugby Club, who moved to their Shaw's Bridge home in 1991, have a long and storied history, having started in 1910. They share their complex with Instonians, but if Cooke were ever willing to sell and maybe downsize, then I believe the Irish FA should seriously look at the Shaw's Bridge grounds for their National Training Centre.
To me, having spent a week here, it meets all the requirements, but of course, the IFA could easily adapt it to suit the needs of all their squads.
I have no doubt it would be the perfect place for Ian Baraclough's senior international squad as he prepares for games. Michael O'Neill always preferred staying at the Culloden Hotel in Cultra and then we would have to bus it to the various training grounds the Irish FA were able to book for our sessions.
But with a hotel on site, the players could simply walk to training and then use the state-of-the-art gym at their leisure to do their strength and conditioning exercises. It would make such a difference having your training centre within walking distance. With no rush to get on the bus to get everyone back to the hotel, players would stay later to enhance their games and then simply come back when they were done.
Shaw's Bridge is only a short drive away from Windsor Park, so on the eve of the game, when we train there, and on match night it wouldn't take that long to get there.
Believe me, players hate any travel between training or games - they just want to get there and perform.
We have a great stadium now in Windsor Park, but that's for playing games, we need a proper training complex which can cater for men, women, boys, girls and those with disabilities who love the game.
Football is the No.1 sport in Northern Ireland but yet, in terms of training needs, we have been nomads in our own country for too long. We desperately need a place to call home for all levels.
Combating Covid-19 is obviously the main focus at present, money is in short supply with different revenue streams cut and, as the Irish League has found out, simply trying to start up again presents numerous problems, but when some sort of normality returns, I hope the Irish FA will finally, after all these years, get round to having a National Training Centre of their own.
Shaw's Bridge is a prime location, it would be perfect with the hotel right next door, but Cooke may not want to leave their home.
It would certainly be worth asking a question…
After a period of disillusionment with the game - due to the ongoing furore about how leagues would be settled in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic - being on the Irish FA's A Licence course really whetted my appetite for football again.
I've spent an exhausting week learning, listening, watching and presenting in the class room and then putting into action what I know on the training pitch.
Under the tutelage of Nigel Best, Kieran Harding, Andy Waterworth and Sean Paul Murray, it's given me a real insight and perspective into the role I want to go into next now I have finished playing.
Gaining the experience will be crucial on the pitch, so I will be reaching out to the contacts I have made over the years to get the valuable time I need.
Already Alfie Wylie has offered Aaron Hughes and myself the opportunity to take a few sessions with the women's Under-17s, so we will definitely be taking Alfie up on that.
Today brings an end to the first residential week and then we will be assessed throughout the next year before another residential week for me in Belfast.
I've found it enlightening and inspiring - I've been really impressed with the sessions Kieran and Andy have put on.
Coaching really appeals to me and so I will be working hard to achieve all the badges I need to remain in the game at a high level.
I'll be interested to see if Ian Baraclough makes a bold move in his first Northern Ireland squad announcement tomorrow by calling up youngsters Alfie McCalmont and Ethan Galbraith for the Nations League games against Romania and Norway next month.
Alfie and Ethan have obviously been involved in the squad before - a friendly against Luxembourg - towards the end of Michael O'Neill tenure, but this would be a real sign of intent by Bara, if he is to give his former under-21 stars an immediate opportunity by bringing them into the panel for the Nations League games.
Alfie, despite only being on the fringes of the first-team squad at Leeds, has just signed a new contract at Elland Road while Ethan was named in Manchester United's Europa League panel.
Both players obviously have huge potential and these may be the type of games where Bara decides to throw them in at the deep end and see if they can swim.
Having been around the senior team, as under-21 boss, he knows exactly what Steven Davis, George Saville, Corry Evans and Paddy McNair can offer him in midfield at senior level, but Bara may opt to see what Alfie and Ethan can deliver.
So many players, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, have not been involved in competitive action since March, so with Alfie and Ethan having gone through rigorous training regimes with their clubs, they may be in a better place to take on these Nations League games.
Both are confident boys and I have no doubt they would relish the opportunity and it would only help their development.
My only reservation would be if they aren't going to see any game time and the proposed under-21 Euro qualifiers go ahead as scheduled, then it might be better for Alfie and Ethan to stay with the under-21s so they are involved in a game.