Former Town chairman on how St George's Park has helped English football
- Credit: PA
Former Ipswich Town chairman David Sheepshanks said St George's Park has given England the foundations to get its hands on international silverware once again.
Sheepshanks, the mastermind behind the FA's national football centre in Staffordshire, made the comments ahead of England's hotly-anticipated Euro 2020 final clash against Italy – the Three Lions' first major tournament final since 1966.
The centre was built to help give England the edge against opponents on the international stage, giving the senior and junior teams the chance to train alongside each other in world-class facilities.
Sheepshanks said the synergy between teams and Gareth Southgate's keen eye for young talent has helped to create such a great squad.
He said: "Everything we see now is thanks to Gareth Southgate and all the members of his sensational team, on and off the pitch.
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"Buildings don't win tournaments, brilliant people do. Brilliant managers, brilliant coaches, brilliant players.
"The reason we built St George's Park is because France, Italy, Holland, Spain and Germany – all of these tournament winning teams had national centres or sports universities and we didn't. We were living a peripatetic life metaphorically out of a suitcase.
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"We had our senior teams training at one place, the under-21s at another, the under-20s at another and so on.
"There was no togetherness, no learning from each other, no sharing of experiences. We were absolutely convinced of the need to build a national centre and we did."
Sheepshanks was tasked with sourcing funding for the project before it opened in 2012, admitting it was a "crusade" for him and his team to garner support during the recession.
The journey saw him visit national centres across Europe, gaining advice from those behind them in a bid to create a state-of-the-art centre to rival any on the continent.
He said: "The best thing we can say about that is that I'm really pleased to hear the England players, given a choice of where they wanted to host their training camp for the Euros, chose St George's Park.
"I think it's fantastic really, and that we've done more right than wrong. It was always the case of it being a long term plan, we knew it wouldn't happen overnight.
"You only have to look at what Gareth has done, he was under-21 manager when it was being built and he totally got into what we are doing, culturally and every other way. He knew we wanted to change the culture of English football and help develop the individual instead of treating everyone the same.
"Hopefully it is a place to inspire great performance without everybody looking in.
"I am chuffed to bits, but I think if we were the warm-up act, then there is no question that Gareth and the players are the main course, the pudding, the coffee and the after dinner sweets all rolled up together."