Lowestoft firm at heart of national football centre opened by Duke and Duchess of Cambridge
It is a centre of football excellence that could lead to England becoming world-beaters again in the sport it invented.
And as the England players and the next generation of football coaches take advantage of the new £105m St George’s Park national football centre, a Lowestoft firm could be over the moon if it leads to a World Cup or Euro success.
Yesterday the Football Association (FA) officially unveiled its world-class facilities at the national football centre, which should inspire and help develop future generations of footballers and coaches.
As the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge officially opened the centre, at Burton-Upon-Trent, Lowestoft firm Harrod UK took centre-stage as it scored another successful result in the world of sports manufacturing business.
Harrod UK, which is based on the South Lowestoft Industrial Estate, has provided all the goals for the centre’s 11 outside pitches and its in-door pitches and has also supplied team shelters as part of a £250,000 two year contract.
And yesterday the England team peppered the goals with shots as they prepared for the up-coming World Cup qualifiers against San Marino and Poland.
As Norwich City keeper John Ruddy, star striker Wayne Rooney and defender Leighton Baines honed their skills for the two crunch games in front of manager Roy Hodgson before meeting the Royal couple, it was another feather in the sporting cap of Harrod UK.
The company, which was set up in 1954, was the official sole suppliers of football goals and nets and hockey equipment to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
And it has provided goals, posts and nets at a multitude of international venues and events including Wembley, the Millennium and Twickenham Stadiums, Santiago Bernabéu, Dubai Sports City, the Delhi Commonwealth Games 2010 and the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals.
Les Saunders, sales and marketing director at Harrod UK said: “To supply another world class venue like St George’s Park so soon after London 2012 is truly the icing on the cake for our company.
“2012 has been a fantastic year for ‘Made in Britain’ and the summer games epitomised what the country was capable of. We are very privileged to play a small part in their huge success.”
St George’s Park will be used by all of England’s 24 national teams ahead of international fixtures and as well as the 11 external pitches the 330 acre site has a dedicated practice and training area for goalkeepers and sports pavilions for post-training de-briefs.
It also has a world class sports and exercise, medicine, human performance and research centre and will be used to help create more football coaches.
There is also another strong north Suffolk link to St George’s Park as a Carlton Colville man is playing a key role in footballing development.
Jamie Houchen, a former Yarmouth Town footballer and Norwich City’s Football in the Community officer, is the Head of FA Learning at the new training home and coach education centre at St George’s Park.
Mr Houchen, who joined The FA from Norwich City Football in the Community in 2001, said: “Obviously when I joined The FA 11 years ago this was my ultimate dream job and something I was always aiming towards. The opening of the centre represents a new era for English coaching.
“It is our mandate to develop future generations of innovative coaches who are excellent teachers of the game and although there are lots of challenges ahead, I am relishing the opportunity to play my part.”
FA chairman David Bernstein said: “We expect to get a huge amount out of this, probably first and foremost the development of more and better coaches. We have good coaches in this country but we need many more and this will be a centre driven to produce better coaching.
Former Norwich City trainee Dan Ashworth will officially take over as the FA’s Director of Elite Development at the end of the current Premier League season. The 41-year-old will leave his post as West Brom’s sporting and technical director to oversee a shake up of the game at junior level.
Ashworth played for Wisbech Town before embarking on a successful career working initially with young players at Peterborough United and Cambridge United. In 2004 he joined Aidy Boothroyd to help set-up West Brom’s academy.
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