We love travel and we’re all big football fans too, so a trip to St George’s Park sounded like a good fit for us! And you know what? It was. We all had a great time. Let Robert, aged 11, tell you more….
St George’s Park is in Staffordshire and is the English Football training ground, home to all 20 of our national teams. The site was bought by FA in 2001 but the actual project only started in 2005. It took fifteen months and £105 million to build St George’s Park and so everyone would be happy it is located right in the middle of the country. The whole site is 330 acres in size although only 130 acres are currently in use (there’s space for a golf course so the players will enjoy staying there even more in future!)
The Hilton hotel is connected to St George’s and is where all the players stay. It’s not just English footballers who stay there though, as foreign teams might come when they are playing an English side. Most of the Premier League teams have stayed and Barcelona have been there on two occasions. There are eleven executive rooms used mainly by managers and important club staff and the England team stayed there at the beginning of November, ahead of the World Cup qualifier game against Scotland and the friendly against Spain.
When we went to St Georges Park, the Australian Rugby Team were there, which shows that it’s not just footballers who come and stay. During the Rugby World Cup last year both the Irish and Argentinian teams rested at the Hilton.
We were given a tour around the site and were shown some really cool things like an autograph wall which had been signed by countless famous people. Geoff Hurst was the first to sign his name and the list now includes Messi, Suarez, Gerrard, David Cameron and Ollie Murs plus loads of other footballers and celebrities.
Throughout our tour we saw some of the thirteen full size pitches that were scattered about. There was an exact replica of the pitch at Wembley Stadium which was 96 percent real grass and only four percent artificial. There was also a full size indoor pitch which cost £1m and is made of elite fibre. The indoor pitch is temperature controlled and can be watered although it is artificial. When we came, the England under 16’s were playing on this pitch.
England has so many different football teams, including a men’s and women’s team, under 21’s, under 16’s plus a team for the blind and a team for the disabled. There are quite a few others which I haven’t yet mentioned like the English Futsal team who play Futsal, a game with a smaller teams and a smaller pitch. They train in the blue indoor Futsal hall which was paid for by St George’s main sponsor Nike and can also be used for basketball and netball. There are also a number of other pitches including a 3G pitch and one made of elite fibresand.
On our tour around St George’s, which opened in October 2012, we were shown all the training equipment that players would use. There is a massive gym full of cross trainers and weights as well as three normal pools, a plunge pool and an underwater treadmill which cost a quarter of a million pounds. We were shown inside the human performance lab and I was amazed by all the machinery inside like the treadmill that takes away gravity from your legs. The room is mainly used for testing players’ ability but can also be used for player medicals.
St George’s Park is home to top physios who treat the top players, although members of the public can also come as part of their medical treatment.
There are seven changing rooms on site and we were let into the under 21’s changing room and the senior team’s one where all the top English players like Harry Kane, Deli Alli and Eric Dier would have changed into their kit or had an ice bath after a game.
I loved going on the tour and learning about English football and England’s national training ground. Our rooms in the Hilton Hotel were lovely too, there was a great swimming pool we enjoyed using, and overall I had a great day.
Sarah adds: We all enjoyed our St George’s tour and also staying at the Hilton. We had interconnecting rooms (always brilliant for families) and the pool area was large and really lovely. It is a huge hotel which is football themed – the bar is called Crossbar and there is a Centre Circle coffee lounge! We were particularly impressed by the excellent breakfast where there was lots of choice. It’s a good place to stay if you’re in the area as it’s quiet and very convenient for Drayton Manor (read Robert’s piece here) and the National Memorial Arboretum (read my piece here).
Disclosure: We went on the St George’s tour and stayed at the Hilton as part of a “Staffordsheerescape” package, courtesy of Enjoy Staffordshire, although they had no input at all into this blog post. You can find details of the St George’s tours on their website and they cost £9 per person. We also visited Drayton Manor, on a package which starts at £170 for a family of four, and includes an overnight stay (hence our stay at the Hilton St George’s Park), plus admission to Drayton Manor Park and two other attractions. There’s a basket of 10 to choose from in all, including the Snow Dome and Trentham Monkey Forest – so you’ll have a fun packed time. You can see the details of the Drayton Manor package here. You can add on the tour as an extra if you like! Rooms at the Hilton vary from £90 to £110 per room per night.