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I'll help bring best out of England youngsters: Wayne Rooney

Wednesday, 10 October 2012 - 1:19pm IST Updated: Wednesday, 10 October 2012 - 1:20pm IST | Agency: Daily Telegraph
The 26 year-old, who has 76 caps, is one of the senior players and is keen to help out the younger ones.
  • Reuters

St George's Park is all about shaping a better future for England while drawing inspiration from the past. Wayne Rooney has a picture of Kevin Keegan in his room. Down the corridor, Steven Gerrard has a photograph of Gary Lineker beaming at him. "Legends on the wall,'' Gerrard calls them.

On the day that the FA's sparkling new 110 million pounds National Football Centre was officially opened by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, English footballing royalty was all around. "Kevin Keegan!'' Rooney smiled when describing the picture in his room. "I was going swap it!

"It is great to see all the pictures. You see the Tony Adams Suite and the Sir Bobby Charlton Suite. It makes you think what this is all about. I was looking at a picture with the manager (Roy Hodgson) yesterday to see how many players I could recognise. It was before '66 and I didn't get any! But it is great for us to look back."

Lineker graces the wall of Gerrard's room. "He was someone I looked up to when I grew up,'' said the Liverpool midfielder, whose uncle is an Everton fan. "When you're a young kid you want to come to places like this. You see the dream. You see legends up on the wall, people you aspire to. If you're an eight year-old coming here, it's an unbelievable place to grow and learn and achieve your dreams."

Gerrard developed his technique on the tarmac of the Bluebell Estate in Huyton, a far cry from the 12 pristine pitches at St George's Park.

"I'd much rather come here and play football than play on the street, but some of us didn't have that choice back then,'' said Gerrard. "I've been lucky enough to sample many facilities, but this blows them all out of the water. I'd loved to have come to this place and learned.

"We spoke in the summer after Euro 2012 about possession and how we're got to keep the ball better. But now we've got the best stadium in the world and the best facilities. We're taking away all the excuses the players might use in the future."

Flaws remain in the national game, many of them. The shortage of two-footed players, responsibility-taking players, and a collection of successful penalty-taking players means that England will struggle to impose themselves on a tournament for a substantial period of time.

Where St George's Park gives hope for the future is in its primary role as a coach education hub, nurturing more coaches to work with schoolchildren. By 2020, the FA aims to have developed 250,000 coaches, including an average of 15-20 Pro-Licence coaches a year and between 500 to 1,000 A-Licence coaches.

"The key to this place is to get the best coaches coaching the young children coming through,'' said Gerrard, indicating the quality of coaching at St George's Park and also, increasingly, around the country.

In the short-term, the FA hopes that Hodgson's players will be uplifted and strengthened by St George's Park. "We had a tour around it yesterday," said Rooney, "the facilities are fantastic, the training pitches are great and it's brilliant for the younger players coming through. It will benefit them in the years to come. It will be inspirational. Walking round you see all the history of England and pictures up and sayings up. There was one saying in the swimming pool from Ian Thorpe that is quite good."

The quote from the Australian swimmer reads: "Losing is not coming second. It's getting out of the water knowing you could have done better."

It struck a chord with Rooney. "I always feel like I have given everything, whether I have played well or badly. I always try to come off exhausted."

The 26 year-old, who has 76 caps, is one of the senior players and is keen to help out the younger ones. "I always remember Alex Ferguson says what a big help Eric Cantona was to all those younger players at United,'' continued Rooney. "It is something I can try to do for England with all these younger players. I always try to speak to them and offer advice. Hopefully I can bring the best out of them and they can bring the best out of me as well."

Rooney hopes this field of dreams in Staffordshire will help prepare him for Brazil. A World Cup in the land of the five-times winners, the home of the inventors of the Beautiful Game, is the pinnacle for any footballer. "Of course," added Rooney. "Me growing up as a young kid, Brazil were the team I wanted to watch on the TV - Romario, Ronaldo. I have never been to Brazil. To go over there and play in a World Cup will be something special."

St George's Park is something special, a much-needed, elegantly-designed centre where all the squad's requirements from sports science, to medical expertise, to kit-laundry and storage and tactical analysis are all under one roof. It was first mooted in 1975, more seriously discussed in 2001 and is finally open.

"Since I was a kid there was always talk of a new facility,'' said Rooney, "and thankfully it is here now."
 


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