Published on February 11, 2013 | by Samuel Rowntree

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FA has its flaws but let’s applaud new foundations

Entrance sign at England’s new £105m base, St George’s Park [Flickr: Diego’s Sideburns]

The Football Association celebrated its 150th anniversary last week with an awards ceremony on Sunday, February 3, and the match against Brazil on Wednesday just gone – the culmination of a century-and-a-half of endeavour to make the English game what it is today.

To sceptics, this week has been a festival of self-congratulation, against a backdrop of scandal on and off the pitch that should be the real focus of the association’s work at present.

The optimistic will point to the apt location of the awards ceremony at the new St George’s Park facility, the centre of excellence opened in the last year that will help to usher in a new age of English football.

After 2012’s year of tumult, when racism, power struggles and England’s continuing failure in major tournaments have never been more giddily pointed out by football’s hatemongers when held up in comparison to the squeaky clean Olympics, there is cause for some extremely cautious optimism.

The Premier League continues to grow, and will get even richer next season as new television rights are sold, surely only causing the theatre to heighten, new markets seemingly unmoved by the maddening antics of some of its main protagonists.

The England team’s new £105 million facility at St George’s Park is ready and open for business, poised for an intake of coaches wanting to learn the dark arts of ball retention already well taught on the continent in a bid to catch up with the more technical game played by the England team’s superiors, in the hope it will drip down to academies and schools across the land.

The facility is a base that the calculating England manager Roy Hodgson can plot his side’s course to world silverware next year and the years after, an appointment that further proves the FA’s wish to get away from the last ten years of vanity on employing managers that became larger than their teams, and getting back to winning football matches.

The fallacy of England’s current world ranking, sixth, must be lived up to. It was gut-wrenching watching England go out on penalties once again in the European Championships, a sight that will not leave me easily were the two grown men, tattooed and bald-headed, comforting one another on a kerb outside a South London boozer, showing the hurt that 46 years of clutching at straws has done.

So desperate are we for recognition on the world stage that our fans, now gentrified (and proud of it) still flock to far flung countries to watch our team play.

I believe that England will win a major trophy in the next 15 years. Some of our younger players show real promise, and encouragingly, level-headedness.

Jack Wilshere at Arsenal should grow into a great player, the two dynamic wingers Wilfried Zaha and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain play the beautiful game and are good prospects, Theo Walcott and Wayne Rooney  have matured and the paths of young defenders Phil Jones and Chris Smalling seem to have been mapped out for a long time.

More important to the misty-eyed among us is the make-up of these young players. They will wear the three lions crest in the period immediately after “the golden generation” have floundered and will want to avoid that at any cost, and it is with the FA’s new approach that this success will come.

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