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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 October 2007, 07:07 GMT 08:07 UK
McClaren backing national academy
Steve McClaren
McClaren feels England are in danger of being left behind
England coach Steve McClaren has thrown his backing behind the controversial National Football Centre.

The 50m project in Burton-upon-Trent has been on hold for 12 months and its fate is to be decided in December.

But McClaren said: "Even smaller countries like Austria and Denmark are talking about their centres of excellence. It is incredible.

"We need to be the best in the world and having a centre of excellence would help. Ultimately, we need it."

The National Football Centre was the brainchild of former Football Association technical director Howard Wilkinson, but its implementation has been dogged by problems.

Critics claim the concept is a waste of money and question the site, which has poor transport links.

Pitches have already been laid at Burton but construction work on the outbuildings and dressing rooms is yet to begin and the FA is about to launch a two-month consultation process which will determine the future direction of the project.

Sometimes you have to bury the money and admit it has not worked out

FA chief Brian Barwick
McClaren feels a national centre is a necessity if England are to compete with the rest of the footballing world.

He added: "We have a home where we play at Wembley but we need one for all the administration and all the coaches because at the moment, the coaches are here, there and everywhere.

"We are also in desperate need of a centre for medical development because the biggest advances in football over the last 10 years have been in medical and sports science. We need to be at the forefront of that."

The FA's head of football development Sir Trevor Brooking is also a passionate supporter of the scheme and feels England are already falling behind their competitors.

He said: "We need a hub where we can pull everything together.

"The governing body needs a vision of what it is going to achieve. We need a consistent, co-ordinated approach, which lots of countries have got and we don't."

FA chief executive Brian Barwick promised a decision would be made on the project before the end of the year.

"We get the fact people seem to want it," he said. "We just have to bottom out the finances.

"At the moment, we have a fantastic set of pitches and two sheds but not much else.

"We have already spent a lot of money on this project but sometimes you have to bury the money and admit it has not worked out.

"We still believe we should give it every chance but the next two months will be very significant. There will be a decision by the FA board in December. I guarantee that."

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