By Chris Harris

Arsène Wenger is surprised that it’s taken so long for the FA to give the green light to a National Football Centre in Burton - and he’s equally shocked they can actually afford it.

Building work on the £105million academy will begin in January, nearly a decade after the FA first bought the land on the 350-acre site.

It’s a timely piece of good news in a week that saw England’s lack of technical ability exposed by France at Wembley, but Wenger was not expecting the announcement.

“I am surprised it has taken so long,” he admitted. 

“Also [I’m surprised] that the Football Association has finally found the finances, because Wembley is a big big expenditure for the FA and I am surprised they found the money to do it.”

For all that, Wenger believes that Burton is a step in the right direction. Indeed, he feels that a national academy that produces top-class coaches is imperative for a country that wants to compete at the highest level in sport.

“What is important in modern sport is that before 20 or 30 years ago, the education of sport was left to the schools,” he explained.

“It has been shown today that the schools are not equipped or educated in knowledge to educate people for top-level sport, and that means the federations who do not take charge of their own people to get them to the top level fail at the international level.

“That means there is no choice, the federations have to do it. They have to educate their people [to give them] the requested ingredients you need in such schools.”

A forerunner to Burton is the famous Clairefontaine academy in France, an institution that spawned talents such as Thierry Henry and Nicolas Anelka.

Burton will focus on developing coaches rather than players and Wenger thinks that is wise. After all, the clubs are already producing footballers from their own academies.

“It [improving football in England] is not only linked with Burton, it is linked with the academies,” he said.

“The biggest part of the job has been done already. There is a second step now that the clubs want to take to improve the quality of their education and the federation will only be a complement, it will not be the basis – the basis of the work is done inside the clubs. The federation can contribute too and they need a centre like that.

“That [developing better coaches] is very important. You want qualified people and the better the education is, the more qualified people are.”

Copyright 2017 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to as the source
19 Nov 2010