Prince of Wales meets young footballers to mark 10th anniversary of St George’s Park
The Prince of Wales met budding footballers on a visit to St George's Park on Wednesday to celebrate its 10th anniversary as the home of English football.
The 40-year-old, who took over from his uncle, Prince Andrew, as President of the Football Association (FA) in 2006, met with para-footballers, young players and competitors at this year's Street Child World Cup about the opportunities they've received through the sport at St George's Park.
The centre, in Burton upon Trent, Staffordshire, was built on a 330-acre site and was officially opened by the Prince of Wales, who was then the Duke of Cambridge, in 2012.
He returned on Wednesday to mark ten years of the centre - taking the time to meet the staff that make St George’s Park a leading venue.
It's the Prince's second solo engagement in as many days - with the Princess of Wales visiting the Royal Surrey County Hospital in Guildford on Wednesday to meet mothers and babies.
The Prince spent 15 minutes in private with Southgate in a boot room at the national football centre in Staffordshire.
It is understood the pair discussed the England team’s preparation for the upcoming campaign, with the head coach thanking Prince William for visiting, and highlighting the centre’s decade of work.
Southgate also expressed his condolences to the prince on the loss of his grandmother, the Queen, and spoke of his admiration for the way the royal family had conducted themselves.
Since its opening in 2012, St George's Park has delivered in line with the vision The FA originally set out, making a huge contribution to the success of the English game with 12 tournament wins, including summer successes at UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 and European U19 Men’s Championship.
The Staffordshire facility now hosts over 80 England team camps a year across men’s and women’s seniors, development and para squads.
All squads benefit from the state-of-the-art pitches, strength & conditioning gym and facilities within the National Football Centre that include Cryotherapy, Hydrotherapy and Physiotherapy Suites, as well as a Performance Studio.
Mark Bullingham, CEO at The FA, said: "St. George’s Park continues to deliver on the vision we set out ten years ago to provide consistent world class support for our England teams.
"Since St George’s Park opened, our teams have won 12 tournaments, and we are confident that our best-in-class facilities, coaching and learning will support more success for future generations.
"Our investment supported by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, Sport England and the National Lottery continues to drive success for the English game."
The prince also watched Midlands teams drawn from schools, representing Birmingham City, Wolverhampton Wanderers, West Bromwich Albion, Walsall, Derby County, Nottingham Forest, Port Vale, Shrewsbury Town – and his beloved Aston Villa – playing in a tournament.
He chatted with Birmingham schoolgirl Nesia Joao, 10, from Edgbaston, who was there representing Villa with fellow All Saints Multi-Academy Trust pupils.
She told reporters: “He asked if we were winning the tournament, and how many goals we had.
"Then he told us Villa was his favourite team and didn’t want us to let him down.
“We promised not to.”
She added: “At first I thought he would all be like strict, because he’s in the royal family and has to follow these guidelines.
“But afterwards he was talkative, fun and a nice guy.
“My Dad will be really proud.”
Later on, Prince William watched England para footballers take on West Bromwich Albion counterparts in a fast-paced game of powerchair, played with a larger ball.
After the game, the prince told the players: "I am amazed and impressed, I haven’t seen it before, but it’s incredible.
"When he said: "I’ll have to come and watch the tournament,” one of the powerchair squad raised a laugh from Prince William when he replied: “No pressure then!"