0 Pitch Perfect - Insider Norton's view of the Rangemore Centre

One of the few people with inside knowledge of the facilities currently at the proposed site of the National Football Centre, at Rangemore, is Gresley Rovers manager Gary Norton.

Norton's side have been granted use of the pitches for training sessions and friendly matches, along with the likes of Burton Albion, Stafford Rangers and Hednesford Town.

"The FA are quite secretive about the whole thing," said Norton. "When we persuaded them to let us play a friendly there, we had to provide exact names and numbers of players and officials.

"No supporters were allowed in, not even parents of the players."

However, Norton said that the quality of the pitches was highly impressive.

"We are quite fortunate to have been allowed to use the facilities and we will be up there again for pre-season," he said.

"The pitches are absolutely out of this world. The first time I saw them, I was shaking my head in disbelief.

"They are absolutely perfect - I had to touch them to make sure they were real grass.

"I have been on some Premier League pitches and these are as good as, if not better, than any of them.

"They do cut up a bit when we have played on them but that is probably because they have not had much use.

"There are two groundsmen who work there full-time and they told me they have to cut the grass every day.

"And, if the weather is bad, there are also three or four state-of-the-art Astroturf pitches."

Norton can see the potential for what will eventually be a fully operational state-of-the-art training facility.

"The site is absolutely massive," he said. "You drive in through the bottom gate and it is at least half a mile until you get to the security box, where you have to sign in.

"There is so much room for development. There's just land pretty much as far as you can see. So I can definitely see the potential.

"And it is not as if the pitches are right on top of each other. There is at least a couple of minutes' walk to each one, so they are all quite secluded in their own way.

"There is also a goalkeeping area at the bottom end of the site.

"The facilities are very, very impressive, although there are no outbuildings started yet.

"There is a couple of press areas with toilet facilities but there are no changing or shower areas yet.

"When we are there, the lads have to come changed and then drive home in their kit - but it is a small price to pay.

"We have always struggled to get decent training facilities, so it has been very good for us and other non-league sides."

Norton said that the FA's indecision over the National Football Centre had worked in favour of Rovers.

"From our point of view, all the delays have certainly benefited us," he said.

"We recognise that, when the centre is fully up and running, it could mark the end of our use of the site.

"However, we are still hoping we will be able to make use of it in some form, because the England teams won't be there around the clock.

"Even if Gresley Rovers and Burton Albion weren't using it, the centre will be fantastic for the area. It will certainly put Burton on the map as a football town."

Source :- Evening Telegraph

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