Jill Gallone: We've got it all: phones, hotels, real ale...even wifi!
THE London media circus descended upon these parts on Tuesday for the opening of the National Football Centre St George's Park, and I was there too.
In all my years in newspapers (too many to own up to) I have never seen so many members of the press gathered in one place – most of them armed with giant zoom lenses.
And I had to smile, because I knew a few of them definitely did not want to be there. To be precise, they didn't want to be forced out of London into the sleepy retreat that is rural East Staffordshire and its neighbour Derbyshire.
How do I know? A national sports reporter told me that the London football journos were annoyed they had to head to this sleepy backwater to report on England prior to their World Cup qualifier tomorrow.
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I bit my tongue to stop myself uttering "diddums".
He even asked me: "Can you get a phone signal here?"
I met the same journo on a tour of St George's Park while it was still being built a few months ago. I remember it well because he asked me another question that made me gulp: "Are there any hotels around here?"
I looked at him gone out. "Erm, yes, lots. In fact there are two hotels on-site at St George's Park, a Hilton and Hampton by Hilton."
"Yes, but we can't use them, can we?" he asked. "They're for the players."
I put him right – anyone can use the hotels – and shook my head in quiet despair at his London-centric lack of knowledge.
I regaled my Chaddesden hero Martin (Rams fan and all-round good egg) with this tale. "No hotels here! Are these people real?" he said. "What did you say to him? No, we sleep in the gutters with the badgers."
Nothing beats the quick wit of a Chadd lad.
A couple of skinny-jeans-clad young journos from a national men's mag also had a question for me: "Are there any good real-ale pubs around here?"
I gulped again. "Erm, yes, lots. Derby is one of the best real-ale cities in the country and Burton is the home of brewing, renowned for its water and Bass ale, the first trademark in the world."
I was beginning to feel like a history teacher.
Bearing all this in mind I had to smile at the gathered hacks and wonder if, just maybe, they might be enjoying the country air safe in the knowledge that wifi and real ale were miraculously available.
In the aftermath, I perused national press reports of the big day only to see The Guardian sports blog report: "It might not be the most conveniently located – '26.1 miles from East Midlands airport' or '132 miles from Wembley', the brochure boasts – but the £105m St George's Park facility that has been endlessly hailed as a key element in shifting the culture of English football has sprung up wondrously quickly since work finally began in March 2011."
What has its distance from London got to do with anything? I would say it's pretty convenient for most people to have a world-class sports facility right in the centre of the country.
One thing's for sure, Roy Hodgson thinks so. He told me he loved the place. And I do too. As a lifelong Rams fan, I'm proud to have the National Football Centre on my doorstep.
Let's hope the London luvvies grow to appreciate it too.