NEWCASTLE United legend Alan Shearer returned to his roots this week to have a look around the new football centre opened at Wallsend Boys’ Club.
The former England captain also handed over a £5,000 cheque from the Football Foundation to help cover the cost of setting up new teams.
That grant follows the £850,000 the foundation put towards the £1.4m cost of the club’s new football centre at Bigges Main.
After being shown around the new centre, the 41-year-old, a striker for the club during his teenage years, said: “I think it is great.
“The Football Foundation is giving opportunities to kids by improving facilities all the time. They have done a fantastic job.
“Without grass-roots football, there is no football. It’s where it starts. It’s what it is all about.”
Wallsend Boys’ Club has been a virtual conveyor belt of footballing talent, producing more than 65 professional footballers including Peter Beardsley, Michael Carrick, Steve Bruce, Steven Taylor, Lee Clark, Robbie Elliott and Steve Watson, as well as Shearer.
And it has managed to produce that array of alumni in spite of never having had a home to call its own until earlier this year.
The club has had a nomadic existence since being founded in its current incarnation in 1938, with many of its boys and girls’ teams having had to play their home games at numerous locations in Wallsend and elsewhere on local authority-owned pitches.
Shearer, famous for scoring 379 goals in 733 appearances in top-flight football, more than 200 of them during his ten years with the Magpies, was visiting his old club to support the grass-roots game and the work of the foundation, a charity funded by the Premier League, the Football Association and Sport England.
Sid Sharp, vice-president of the boys’ club, said: “We used to cover an awful lot of miles around Wallsend going to different grounds to watch different games at different times of the day, so it’s meant a lot to be able to say we have our own ground now.
“Without the help of the Football Foundation, this fantastic facility would not be in existence.”
The new site has had levelling and drainage work carried out to provide it with two senior-size grass pitches, five junior-size grass pitches and one mini-soccer-size grass pitch.
It is also home to a new pavilion including six players’ changing rooms, two match officials’ changing rooms, one accessible changing room and spectators’ toilets, as well as equipment and plant rooms.
Besides the £850,000 from the foundation, the club was given £150,000 by the FA and £300,000 by North Tyneside Council to help pay for the new centre, on top of the £114,000 it raised itself.