Patrick Vieira has welcomed the opening of St George's Park but has warned that the standard of English coaching will have to improve markedly if the quality of its football is to catch up with continental Europe.
The Manchester City football development executive said there needed to be a wholesale review of the way that English talent was coached between the ages of eight and 21. "For a big country like England, with the number of kids who love the game, you don't produce enough talent," said Vieira. "I strongly believe one of the reasons is the coaches. They need to review how to coach the kids from eight years old to 21."
The former Arsenal midfielder said this week's opening of St George's Park, the Football Association's new £105m national football centre near Burton, was long overdue.
"Finally they did something, because if you look at all the big nations, they all have their own 'house'," said Vieira. "It's taken them a long time for them to realise they need a place. But it's better late than never."
Vieira also said that young players did not appear to be as proud of playing for England as they used to be. The FA hopes St George's Park will help engender a common culture across all its representative teams. "I don't know the answer but from the outside I believe that in England they are not as proud as they used to be," said Vieira. "In England, I really don't understand how come so many young players from the age of 16 to 21 pull out of the national team through injury."
Vieira praised the FA for finally opening the centre, first suggested in 1975 and in the planning since 2001, but said it had a lot of catching up to do.
"The people running the English game realised they are far behind other countries, that something is wrong in the system, and they are trying to make it work."
The FA hopes that the new centre to "coach the coaches", combined with its recently introduced Future Game strategy and the Elite Player Performance Plan overhaul of club academies, will spark a culture change in the English game. "England will never try to do what Spain and France are doing because the culture is quite different," Vieira said. "I believe in this country there is a passion and a love of the game – that is a strength in this country.
"So perhaps more needs to be done on the technical side to try to improve that gap because the heart of the English players is, I would say, double or triple that of Spanish or French players."
Vieira said the FA had further to go in building a working relationship with clubs to develop young talent and ensuring they were brought through to the senior game.
"That is a relationship the FA has to build with the football clubs," he said. "At Clairefontaine the players were there all week and then went to play for their clubs at the weekend.
"Are the Premier League clubs ready to do that? I don't think so. At City when you are building your own facilities like we have, it's really difficult to let them go out somewhere else."
City are investing more than £100m in a new complex to house their academy and development teams, due to open in the 2014-15 season. Vieira also agreed that there was a major problem in bringing players through into first-team football between the ages of 18 and 21, an area that the EPPP hopes to improve.
"As a club we want to produce our own players rather than buy them in in their 20s, this is the future, partly because of FFP [financial fair play], partly because it is good for fans to identify with boys from the academy," Vieira said. "We have a vision, a plan, in the next few years we want to bring in our young players from the academy.
"In the last three years we wanted to build a club quick so we could challenge United, Arsenal and Chelsea. We had to buy the best in the market. Now we go to the second phase where we want to use our academy which is why we are building one of the best in the world."
Michael Owen, also speaking at the Leaders in Football conference, likewise welcomed the opening of St George's Park. "Everyone couldn't speak more highly of it. It's a fantastic facility," Stoke City's former England striker said. "Now we've got a home in Burton it will host our national teams for generations to come. I think it's a huge positive step for the FA to have taken."