(WFI) FIFA’s inspection of England’s World Cup bid continued today with a tour of Old Trafford by Manchester United legends of the past and present.
Rio Ferdinand, Wayne Rooney and Sir Bobby Charlton gave the inspectors an insiders’ perspective of United’s ground.
“I was pleased we were able to bring the inspectors to see a ground which has produced so many great moments,” said Charlton, who starred when England previously hosted the World Cup in 1966.
“When I walk on the pitch and think of the generations of fans that have been here through the years, cheering on some of the best players the world has ever seen, it is hard not to get emotional.”
“Games at this ground have inspired people all over the world for generations and I would love to see World Cup matches played here in 2018 so it can inspire even more.”
Rooney, who will be 32 in 2018, said that he still hoped to be playing international football at the time of the tournament and would relish playing in front of a home crowd.
“I was part of the launch for the World Cup Bid last year and am committed to the campaign as I believe we would be fantastic hosts,” he said.
“I’m hoping I’ll still be at the top of my game in 2018 and would love to play World Cup football in front of a home crowd.”
England captain Ferdinand said that he hoped England were successful in bringing “one big festival of football” to the country.
“We have just about every culture represented here in Manchester so I can guarantee they would get a warm welcome and could come here to Old Trafford to create an immense atmosphere,” he added.
Earlier today the six-man team, led by Chilean FA President Harold Mayne-Nicholls visited the north east, including visits to Sunderland’s Stadium of Light and Newcastle United’s St James’s Park.
Sunderland chairman Niall Quinn and former World Championship and Commonwealth Games Gold medal winner, Steve Cram opened the latest round of FIFA’s inspection visit by hosting a visit to the Stadium Of Light this morning.
Quinn, who won 92 caps for the Republic of Ireland and played almost 500 games for Arsenal, Manchester City and Sunderland before turning to football administration, was refreshingly off-message, appearing to criticize the deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, who on Monday described England’s bid as “unbeatable.”
“The passion for it hopefully will be paramount in their minds when they sit down and write their reports and they say, ‘Hey, do you know something, those people up in the north-east, they wanted
this so badly, they prepared and they ticked the right boxes’,” he said.
“Have we done that? I can’t possibly say. I certainly wouldn’t be as confident as the deputy prime minister – that’s not the way we should be thinking.
“There will be more work to be done between now and the first week in December.”
The team then made the short journey to Newcastle’s St James’s Park where they were greeted by former England international Peter Beardsley.
Last night the inspection team began their visit to the north east with a tour of Middlesbrough training complex and the adjacent Rockliffe Hall Hotel, which is slated as a base camp venue.
The inspectors travelled to the North-East from London via air yesterday, flying past proposed stadia in England’s bid book, including the Olympic site in Stratford.
Earlier on Tuesday the six-man team were involved in formal presentations and venue visits in London.
The team were given details of hotels, transport and security before going by boat journey along the River Thames, which will be transformed by light-shows on the eve of the final draw. They then visited the O2 Arena, venue for the final draw.
This evening the inspectors will attend a dinner at Manchester Town Hall, attended by the great and good of English football.
Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, who will be joined there by Old Trafford director Sir Bobby Charlton, yesterday added his name to the growing list of those backing England’s bid.
“The facilities for both players and fans are magnificent, from training grounds to stadia, and the passion of the English people for the game would ensure that everybody would be made to feel welcome,” he said.
“It would be a memorable occasion and would inspire people all over the world.”
Criticism of the Prime Minister David Cameron, who has not met the inspection team, has receded after it was announced that his wife Samantha had given birth to a daughter yesterday morning.
By INSIDER’s James Corbett
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