Wilko: Wembley has hampered England's future

November 24, 2007

The Football Association's focus on rebuilding Wembley at the expense of a National Football Centre was the root cause of the English game's current malaise, according to Howard Wilkinson.

And the chairman of the League Managers' Association fears the FA will once again fail to deal with the issue of long-term player development amid the clamour to find a replacement for sacked England manager Steve McClaren.

The irony of England's lamentable failure to reach Euro 2008 less than six months after their first game at the new £800million stadium is not lost on Wilkinson.

In particular, he believes the abandonment of plans for a National Football Centre in Burton when the cost of Wembley spiralled was disastrous for the national team's long-term future.

As the FA embark on their `root and branch' review of what went wrong for McClaren's flops, Wilkinson has urged them to take another look at the proposal.

'We need to focus very sharply now back on to coach education and player development,' he told Sky News.

'Pulling the plug on the National Football Centre was a major blunder in so far as it was an opportunity for the Football Association to show it meant business.

'And to sacrifice that for an extra tea bar at Wembley sent out all the wrong signals.

'We have now got to pour a lot of money and resources into the development of better coaches and the development of players.'

Wilkinson has also warned the FA that, given the short shelf life of the average manager, they would be wrong to place too much emphasis on their search for the new national boss.

'We've got eight months to appoint them (the new manager) and he should be the one to fit into this strategy - one that's five or 10 years long,' Wilkinson continued.

'So it's no use building a strategy around a manager because as we've seen in the past, international managers have a tenure of about three or four years if they're lucky.

'We're talking about something here that's got to be as visionary as up to 10 years in its scope.

'The short term needs to be dealt with within that big picture.'

Wilkinson, a former technical director at the FA who took charge of England for one game in 1999, has also slammed the Association for their lack of input from those with experience of the game.

'The Technical Control Board at the FA is the only real committee that has technical people on it,' he said.

'It has sat once in the last 15 months. There can be no reason why an important committee like that doesn't sit.'

Of the need for change at the FA, he added: 'At the end of the day it needs strong leadership to deal with the political in-fighting for territory that currently goes on, to produce a strategy that all people recognise as being good for the big picture in the game - and therefore good for them.'