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FA set for a year of celebration

GOOD TO TALK: John Barnes

SOME OF the biggest names in football descended on central London as the Football Association yesterday launched their 150th anniversary celebrations.

Some 400 invited guests, made up of former players, managers, the members of the Armed Forces, and the media were in attendance as the FA kicked off their 12 months of celebrations.

Among the star studded audience were England manager Roy Hodgson, ex players Marcel Desailly, Patrick Vieira, Fabrice Muamba and John Barnes.

HRH the Duke of Cambridge, David Beckham and current England captain Steve Gerrard gave their congratulations via video at the Great Connaught Rooms in Holborn.

Even after 150 years there remains a simple beauty to the universality of football – from Wembley to parks football a single unbreakable thread runs through.

FA chairman David Bernstein said: "The bedrock of English football are the more than two million people who play football every week. Women's football is third biggest participation sport in the country, disability football is the seventh biggest.

Hodgson at the launch alongside four previous England managers, told the event that 2013 would be "vitally important" to give the national team the chance to compete for the World Cup in Brazil next year.

The England boss, who also has friendlies against Scotland, Brazil and the Republic of Ireland to prepare for, added: "The first thing we have to do is qualify for the World Cup, that's vitally important. And when we qualify we have to give a good account of ourselves in Brazil and once you are there you have a chance of winning it, who knows?

"We have very good young players coming into the game and showing they do have the ability to shoulder the burden and hopefully we will have a good blend with experienced players as well."

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