St Georges Park. Home of all things England Football.
Nestled within 330 acres of picturesque Staffordshire countryside, St George's Park is a footballing oasis. This sprawling complex boasts an impressive array of features, including 14 pristine outdoor pitches, an exact replica of the hallowed Wembley turf, a full-sized indoor 3G pitch, and a dedicated futsal arena. But it's not just about the facilities; it's a hub of physical preparation and sport science, housing state-of-the-art performance and recovery centres that make it the ultimate training and rehabilitation destination.
So, you might be wondering, why was I here?
I had organized a "Play like the Pride Experience" for the Mansfield Town U15 Girls, a team we proudly sponsor as a business. Sure, we all dream of sponsoring a Premier League club with its dazzling lights and corporate hospitality, but the cost can climb into the stratosphere, and our budget had its limits (as we remind ourselves).
We arrived well before our agreed-upon time, and so had everyone else. We settled into the Hilton Hotel Reception, anticipating the arrival of the "England" coaching staff. The hotel lived up to its reputation, but this wasn't my first visit (not as a player, of course), so I knew what to expect. We sipped on coffee, took our seats, and counted down the minutes until 5 pm when the coaches were set to arrive.
The girls, brimming with excitement, explored every nook and cranny of the hotel, eventually discovering the Pool Table, Table Football, and comfy bean bags. If you've ever watched videos of St George's Park, you'll recognize these spots as the favourites of England players. The Reception area doubled as a mini museum, a treasure trove of England football memorabilia, from jerseys to footballs to history—a paradise for football fans.
At 5 pm sharp, just as expected, the two England coaches arrived. The team gathered, and it was time to pay full attention. Let the games begin.
The "Play like the Pride Experience" kicked off with a tour of the facilities, followed by an intensive 2-hour training session (not for me, though; I was still nursing my coffee). We learned about the hotel, explored the Futsal Arena, passed the England Cerebral Palsy team in action, and marveled at the Wembley-sized indoor pitch. Our guide pointed out the Blind Football pitch—an unexpected but essential feature.
We continued to the England Bootroom, where the girls sat where the likes of Harry Kane and Ella Toone prepare for training. It was a special moment as the girls listened attentively to the briefing.
After donning their boots, we made our way up the steps to Pitch 1.
I'm pretty sure that, at this point, every girl was envisioning herself training for England. I was buzzing just to be there, even without a football at my feet!
Pitch 1, like all the other pitches, mirrors the dimensions of Wembley. It's meticulously maintained, with the grass height identical to Wembley's, down to the millimeter. This is elite territory; you must earn your right to train on Pitch 1. Starting on Pitch 4, with the ultimate goal of one day gracing Pitch 1, then the girls embarked on a high-level training session led by two England coaches. I may not understand all the drills, but I do know it was an intense workout.
After the session, each girl received a medal as a keepsake of this memorable day at the heart of English football.
If you're a football fan, you must experience St George's Park—whether it's for a drink in the Crossbar Bar at the hotel, a leisurely stroll around the grounds, or bringing your team for a visit. It's an incredible facility that's accessible to all. Stay the night, take a dip in the pool, treat yourself to a spa day; the possibilities are endless.
P.S. The girls had a big match the next day and put on a stellar performance, securing a 5-1 victory against a top-tier opponent. Were they inspired by their visit to St George's Park? Perhaps. Because girls can play too.
I must admit, St George's Park holds a special place in my heart. I loved every moment of it, even though I didn't play a single minute.