Hammers pay St George's Park visit

West Ham United trained at the FA National Football Centre at St George's Park ahead of Saturday's Barclays Premier League trip to Stoke City.

The Hammers took advantage of the outstanding facilities in the Staffordshire countryside, making their final preparations for tackling the Potters on Friday afternoon.

Situated in 300 acres of the National Forest near the town of Burton-on-Trent, St George's Park is the home of the 24 England national teams. It is also the home of FA Learning, The FA's educational department and a state-of-the-art football centre which includes a full-sized indoor third generation football pitch equipped with a viewing gallery for up to 200 people, a 60m x 40m multipurpose indoor sports hall, 11 full size outdoor pitches and one elite DESSO training pitch which is an exact replica of Wembley.

Manager Sam Allardyce has long advocated the need for a National Football Centre and is impressed with what has been created at St George's Park.

Minnesota United

West Ham United met NASL side Minnesota United

"From an education point of view, this centre is the ultimate and what we've been searching for for the last 15 or 20 years," said Big Sam. "In the end, it was finally built as a hub and a central force for education for football.

"I think all they have factored in all those areas - education, psychology, sports science, conditioning, analysis and physiotherapy - and this place has got all of them. The pitches are obviously important as well and you can come here and enjoy the surfaces they have got. We were able to travel first and then train, which we can't do very often these days around the country, so all in all it's a fantastic facility.

"Even my association, the League Managers' Association, has based itself here so it's got everything and once you have this and it gets settled even more than it is now, it will be a fantastic learning hub for all coaches from amateur to semi-professionals to professionals in both coaching and management terms."

An eventful day saw West Ham travel up to St George's Park before sitting down to lunch, after which the players were paid a visit by West Ham and England legend and 1966 FIFA World Cup final hat-trick hero Sir Geoff Hurst. Sir Geoff was at the venue as part of his role as Director of Football for McDonald's, whose nationwide restaurant staff five-a-side finals were being held at St George's Park on Friday.

Mark Noble, Kevin Nolan and Sir Geoff Hurst

Mark Noble and Kevin Nolan with Sir Geoff Hurst

After a team meeting, the players and coaching staff took to the immaculate training pitches.

There, they were welcomed by visiting North American Soccer League (NASL) side Minnesota United, who are staying at St George's Park for a week of pre-season training ahead of their 2014 campaign. Minnesota head coach Manny Lagos enjoyed a chat with Big Sam before the two teams posed for photos.

The training session itself was watched by England U21s manager Gareth Southgate and FA director of elite development Dan Ashworth, who once coached Hammers midfielder Jack Collison as an Academy player at Peterborough United and Cambridge United.

Big Sam enjoyed a conversation with both before speaking to FA TV about the facilities at St George's Park, which also played host to West Ham ahead of their 1-0 win at Stoke a year ago.

With the early afternoon sunshine having made way for cold, grey clouds, the squad headed for the warmth of the on-site hotel for a much-needed shower, any medical treatment they might need and dinner ahead of an early night.

To view an exclusive gallery of photos from St George's Park, visit our Official Facebook page here. You can also view exclusive Vine video and images on our Official Twitter page @whufc_official.