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Sheepshanks: St George's 'can make difference'

Mon 8th Oct 2012 | Football Stadiums & Facilities

England's national football centre chairman insists it can even achieve the impossible and make English teams good at taking penalties.

St George's Park near Burton, a £105million complex that ranks with the best anywhere in the world, will be opened by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

It will be the base for all 24 England teams, from the senior men's side to the junior girls' team, but it will also be a centre of excellence for training coaches and for sports medicine, sports science and, perhaps not least, psychology.

David Sheepshanks, the chairman of St George's Park, says that for elite players the focus will be on making many marginal but vital improvements - an approach that has worked wonders for other sporting bodies such as British Cycling.

He said: "Through sports medicine and sports science, we can concentrate on how do we shave millimetres off so the ball goes in instead of hitting the post.

"How do we prepare players better mentally and psychologically, how do we instil the discipline in players so that they take more personal ownership of their own career development, how do we train players to have that extra bit of puff to make that last attacking run that scores the winning goal, or the last-ditch tackle that saves one?

"Penalty shoot-outs will also be part of it. That is part of the psychological and technical preparation, and this is the first time England has ever had its own permanent training home in which put these things into action across all the teams."

Inside the sports medicine and training centre is a gym stocked with the most technically-advanced equipment that money can buy - except the Football Association has not had to buy it thanks to a sponsorship deal with the manufacturers Technogym.

Sporting slogans abound on the walls - including one from legendary boxer Muhammad Ali: "I hated every minute of training, but I said 'Don't quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion'."

The gym overlooks the senior training pitch, laid out to the exact dimensions of the pitch at Wembley Stadium and with exactly the same mix of grass and Desso artificial fibres.

It is one of 11 outside pitches at the centre, five of which are floodlit and with undersoil heating. There is also a full size indoor 3G artificial pitch with viewing gallery for up to 200 people, and next to that an indoor 60m sprint track with equipment to measure speed and running style.

The England squads will be accommodated in the new hotel built as part of an agreement between the FA and Hilton. They will have their own private dining area and games room, and their wing of rooms can be separated off from the rest of the hotel.

Players in the senior squads will not be expected to share rooms, while England manager Roy Hodgson will be based in the Sir Bobby Charlton suite, which has a separate living room and large balcony area.

Other suites and rooms are named after previous England managers and players including Sir Bobby Robson, Kevin Keegan, Glenn Hoddle and Tony Adams.

Posted by: Kev Howland

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