When Harry Kane strolled out to admire the new artificial grass surface at his boyhood sports club in London, he simply couldn’t resist getting involved in an impromptu training session.
The new £578,000 3G pitch at the Peter May Sports Centre in Walthamstow, North London, was part funded thanks to a £368,696 grant from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund and delivered by the Football Foundation.
The new pitch is the club’s second from global sports leader SIS pitches and Kane, who started his career with local side Ridgeway Rovers, was suitably impressed.
“It looks fantastic. I wish we’d had this when I was playing down here,” said the Spurs hotshot about the British-made grass carpet crafted at SIS Pitches’ Maryport manufacturing base in Cumbria.
The facility, which also received grants from the London Playing Fields Foundation (£135,000) and the London Marathon Charitable Trust (£75,000), now boasts a floodlit, full-size pitch complete with spectator viewing area and replaces the old sand-filled pitch.
Forecasts predict that over the next five years, the number of teams using the pitches will increase by 40% and SIS Pitches play a vital role in providing round the clock, virtually weather-immune, quality artificial turf surfaces.
By contrast natural grass is usable only 3-5 hours a week at best.
Watched by father Pat, mother Kim and older brother Charlie, 22 year old England star Kane was an impressive figure as he spent more than two hours of valuable post-training time chatting with excited 16-18 year olds, who hung on his every word.
Afterwards, Kane declared; “This facility is amazing and it was a real pleasure to open it alongside Virginia May.
“The Peter May Sports Centre is a great example of the Football Foundation’s commitment to improving grassroots football across the country, using money from the Premier League, The FA and the Government through Sport England.
“It is so important that there are partnerships like that in football because it means that the grassroots game can prosper.
“Not so long ago, I was just like the kids who are using the facility now, training hard and enjoying my football – we all start out in the grassroots game after all.
“I grew up learning my football trade in this part of the world, so I know how much this new pitch will mean to the local community.
“This facility will inspire more people to get involved in sport and in doing so will create quality, home-grown talent and increase participation levels in football.
“Again, the Football Foundation, Premier League and FA Facilities Fund, London Playing Fields Foundation and London Marathon Charitable Trust all deserve huge praise for making this pitch a reality.”
The Peter May Centre is where Harry’s former teammate Andros Townsend also started his youth career, as well as former alumni David Beckham and cricketer Ravi Bhopara.
The opening ceremony was also attended by Virginia May, widow of cricket legend Pater May, who said; “The new pitch is absolutely wonderful and I was thrilled to officially open it with Harry.
“The whole facility, including the sports hall that was originally made possible by the Peter May Memorial Appeal and the Sports Lottery, is a fitting legacy to Peter who would have been thrilled to see so many people playing the sport they love.”
The Football Foundation has worked alongside the London FA and London Playing Fields Foundation to put together a five-year local Football Development Plan, emphasising increases in participation levels.
Harry’s old team Ridgeway Rovers FC still play at Peter May along with 45 other amateur teams of all ages, including Ryan FC and Egbertians FC. Colchester United FC are already using the pitch to run their Elite Player Performance Centre for players aged 12-16.
Leyton Orient Advanced Soccer School’s 25 teams will also use the pitch regularly with a view to increasing their provision for disability football. Their girls’ Under-15 side will play at the site too, which would support progression to Under-21 and senior football.
Paul Thorogood, Chief Executive of the Football Foundation, said: “Since 2000, the Football Foundation Funding Partners’ investment has provided 282 grants worth £27.8m towards grassroots sports projects worth over £67.3m across the whole of London.
“With this funding, provided by the Premier League, The FA and the Government, through Sport England, we are helping to improve community sports facilities across the country and thereby the playing experience of those who take part.”