Gary Neville has hailed St. George's Park as 'the greatest training facility' he has ever seen.
The Manchester United legend won 16 major honours, including eight league titles and three FA Cups, during a near 20-year career at Old Trafford. But he insists The FA's new national football centre is more impressive than any similar complex he has seen in the club game.
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England's most capped right-back said, “I’ve been fortunate enough to have played at a very good football club with great facilities. I’ve been to Arsenal, Chelsea and other great football facilities around the country, but I’ve never seen anything as good as this.”
Neville joined Roy Hodgson’s coaching staff in May and has enjoyed his time working with the Three Lions at the new £100m facility. "It’s been the vision of every football club at the top level to have a facility of this type and they’ve never achieved it. But now the England football team, rightly so, have got something like this. I’m stunned."
St. George's Park will be the home for all of England’s 24 national teams and Neville highlighted the importance of having training, sports science, rehabilitation and accommodation facilities all in one place.
The 330-acre centre will also be used to host all The FA’s National Coach Education courses and Neville – who holds the UEFA A Licence qualification and will begin the UEFA Pro-Licence in January – stressed the importance of developing more quality English coaches for the long-term development of the game.
“I had good coaches and I had good understanding from my parents, but it’s not always the case. I think we can produce a lot more players if we have better coaches. This facility is an absolutely incredible opportunity for our great coach educators to deliver better courses, and more ncourses. I’m overwhelmed by the quality that I’ve seen.”
Passion, determination and work-rate defined Neville’s playing career, and now the 37-year-old is applying the same characteristics to his new coaching role.
Speaking about the importance of collecting his coaching qualifications he said, “It’s mandatory, it’s a requirement and you should have them and should want them. That’s one of the reasons I didn’t want to go straight into management from playing. I decided two or three years before that it wouldn’t be the right thing to do. That's because I’ve seen five or six people before me, who played at the club, who have done it make mistakes and
Having spent his whole playing career under Sir Alex Ferguson and now working alongside the experienced pair of Hodgson and his assistant, Ray Lewington, Neville could not have asked for better coaching mentors. He said, “To be part of an England set-up working underneath Roy and Ray, who have got great experience, it is a privilege and honour and something I’m really enjoying. I feel as though I’m learning all the time.
“The best coaches I ever played under and saw were the ones who actually weren’t the best players, but who worked hard to get to the top - the likes of Eric Harrison [former Manchester United Youth Team Coach], and Steve McClaren. Even Roy Hodgson and Sir Alex Ferguson weren’t what you’d call elite players but they were the hardest-working coaches who came through the system and the ones who never tried to short cut.”
He added, “Working under Roy is fantastic because he’s got so much experience and sheds a different light on things. I’m a little terrier at times and just need calming down. There are people above you who have been there, seen it and done it. I’m on an education myself and I want to go through that journey.”