Duke and Duchess of Cambridge open new 100m FA centre… and Wills even gives the England players training there a little team talkDuke and Duchess toured FA's spectacular 330 acre site with 12 full-size pitches, sports science facility, two hotels and conference centreDuchess smart in grey 325 winter coat by her favourite High Street store ReissDuke and Duchess met members of the England squad before players embarked upon historical training session
14:51 GMT, 9 October 2012
If she had been mugging up on the offside rule in preparation, the palace were being characteristically discreet.
Fortunately the Duchess of Cambridge's husband is President of the Football Association and was on hand to steer her through any choppy sporting waters.
In fact Aston Villa fan Prince William was in his element today as he and Kate, wearing a grey wool coat by her favourite High Street designer Reiss, arrived in Burton-Upon-Trent, Staffordshire, for the official opening of St George's Park, the FA's new National Football Centre.
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Team photo: The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge pose along with members of the England football team during the opening of St George's Park, the FA's new 100m training academy in Burton-Upon-Trent, Staffordshire
Time out: William and Kate enjoy a laugh with players from the England squad who had come to attend the grand opening of the 330 acre park, which boasts 12 full-size pitches, sports medicine and sports science facilities, two hotels and a conference centre
The 330-acre, 100m site is one of
the most advanced sporting facilities in the world and is set to become
the base for all coaching and development work undertaken by the game's
It will also be the training and preparation ground for all of the England teams.
It boasts 12 world-classes pitches, state-of-the-art hydrotherapy suites, biomechanic gyms and video analysis amenities.
Today the royal couple were given a
tour of the main facilities before meeting England manager Roy Hodgson
and his squad as they train at St George's for the first time ahead of
their World Cup qualifier on Friday.
In a speech after being shown round the centre, William said:
'Coming here this morning, seeing these wonderful facilities and
beautiful surroundings – just experiencing this extraordinary place –
gave me the same feelings I had when I first went to the Olympic Park.
mixture of pride that we are capable in this country of creating
something so beyond compare anywhere else, and excitement at what this
means, not just for our national game, but for sport and opportunity in
this country as a whole.
Pitching in: As President of the FA, William would be able to educate his wife about the complex offside rule should she need it – though her time playing hockey will likely mean she is already well informed
Stylish: Kate wore the 325 Angel coat in military grey from her favourite High Street brand Reiss (a previous season's style) which she cinched at the waist with Reiss's Betony belt (69) for a more flattering silhouette and accessorised with black suede knee-high boots
George’s Park, and the concept that underpins it, is something totally
new. It will be far more than just a world class facility for training
our future world-beating national team.
is more than just the university from which thousands of highly
qualified coaches will graduate. It is also a magnificent example of
the sort of social initiative that brings opportunity and purpose to
wider British life. It will provide employment and a social hub for
local people and, through the thousands of volunteers on which coaching
relies, it will foster community spirit, purpose and hope throughout
medical and rehabilitation facilities that St George’s Park possesses,
offer us the clearest example of how this incredible place will help
those way beyond the frontiers of football.'
and women, some of whom will have been wounded in the service of our
country, will find respite and care here – and for that we must all be
grateful to the innovative minds that created St. George’s Park.'
added: '2013 will be a great year for the Football Association. It
will be 150 years-old and England will be hosting the Champions League
Final and the UEFA Congress. There could be no more fitting way of
marking these important events and a century and a half of England’s
unique contribution to the world game than the existence of St. George’s
One for the future: The 330-acre site is one of the most advanced sporting facilities in the world and is set to become the base for all coaching and development work undertaken by the FA
Play time: Kate meets player Frank Lampard at the site, and right, talks tactics with England manager Roy Hodgson
Explaining the offside rule Adam Johnson and Frank Lampard chat to Kate at the park. Kate commented at the event that this had been 'a great year for sport, and this was a fitting end to it', while, right, William greets a sheepish looking Ashley Cole, who had taken to Twitter to criticise the FA, of which William is president
Shake on it: After looking down at his feet, Ashley cole did manage to meet the Prince's eye and laugh off the Twitter row
prince couldn't resist a joke at his brother's expense, saying: 'I feel
tempted to cry “God for Harry, England and St. George”, but I really
don’t want to lower the tone by bringing my brother into it.'
their tour of the facilities, William and Kate stepped onto one of the
centre's grass pitches – with are the exact size of that at Wembley.
There they met with members of the England squad who had been training with manager Roy Hodgson.
The royal couple posed for a 'team' photograph then set about chatting to the players.
William made a beeline for Wayne Rooney and Ashley Cole.
As he shook Cole's hand he appeared to rib the player about his current 'difficulties' with the FA, of which he is president.
Cole visibly blushed, laughed and stared at his feet as the pair jested.
said later that the prince had told Cole, who has been charged with
bringing the FA into disrepute after calling them ' a bunch of t***s' on
Twitter: 'If you continue to be a naughty boy then they will take your
Twitter account off you!'
The exchange was said to be 'incredibly light-hearted' despite William's position.
Kate, meanwhile, chatted at length to Frank Lampard, Adam Johnson and captain Steven Gerrard.
In his element: Aston Villa supporter William is
a keen football fan – and relished the chance to grill officials and
players in the England squad on the prospects of his team
The Duchess immerses herself in conversation with Roy Hodgson and his coaching staff
Asked whether Kate, a formidable sportswoman herself but one more interested in tennis and hockey, had been reading up on the offside rule in advance, a spokesman laughed and said tactfully:
'The Duchess knows enough about football already and a lot of today's event is about coaching and schools activities.
'I'm sure if the offside rule comes up, the Duke will gallantly explain.'
As she had a tour of the National Football Centre with Prince William, the Duchess of Cambridge joked about putting on trainers for a kickabout.
Burton MP Andrew Griffiths said: 'I asked if she was going to come for a kickabout later. She said 'Have you got a pair of trainers I can borrow'
'I said 'It can be arranged.' She just laughed.'
Mr Griffiths said Kate also talked of
her love of sport – and how she picked up on helicopter jargon on the
flight from London. 'She said it has been a great year for sport, and
this was a fitting end to it.
'She has been picking up on the helicopter chat. William was talking to the pilot and she is now into the helicopter chat.'
Spectacular: An aerial view of the sprawling National Football Centre reveals the extent of the facilities
For Prince William there was some 'ribbing' about his support for Aston Villa, said Mr Griffiths – and optimistic talk about England's World Cup prospects.
'There was a lot of ribbing about Aston Villa and whether they are going to have any players in the England team.
'He said that was not his decision.
'He asked me if I thought the centre would deliver an England World Cup win. I said 'of course, guaranteed.' There was a wry smile. That about sums it up.'
William's Villa obsession also emerged at a Q and A session for coaches.
William said: 'I've got a quick question – I was just wondering if Aston Villa were ever going to win the Premiership.'
Chris Sulley, who is shortly to take up a job training coaches at Villa and other clubs, said: “I've obviously got some work to do. They have produced good young players. Hopefully we can enhance that.'
Well equipped: The indoor training pitch, left, and right, the Tony Adams accommodation suite at St George's in
Burton-Upon-Trent that is set to be the premium training camp for
players tipped for premiership success
VIDEO: William helps open the Football Association's National Football Centre ***
… and William and Kate meet the England football team…