One of Sunderland’s brightest young players was special guest at the opening of a County Durham school’s new artificial football pitch.
The 3G pitch at St John’s School and Sixth Form College, Bishop Auckland, cost £615,000 and was made possible after a grant of more than £200,000 from the Premier League and the FA Facilities Fund.
An additional £150,000 came from Sport England’s Inspired Facilities fund.
Duncan Watmore, who signed a four-year contract at Sunderland last November, cut the ribbon as part of his first role as a Football Foundation ambassador.
He said: “Yesterday was a really big day for everyone connected with St John’s and I am thrilled to have played a small part by opening their new pitch for them.
“You cannot help but be impressed by it. I know from speaking to people about the Football Development Plan that there simply will not be a time when someone is not using it, which is just brilliant.
“Not so long ago, I was playing at the lower levels of the game and I can tell you that having access to quality facilities, just like this one, makes all the difference when you are trying to improve as a player.”
The new facility will not just benefit the school, but also the wider community, including St Mary’s JFC, who will be able to run an extra 15 teams, including two disability sides.
Durham FA worked with the Football Foundation and the school to produce a five-year Football Development Plan, with the emphasis on increasing participation, particularly through the two main partner clubs, St Mary’s and Escomb JFC.
Lisa Byron, headteacher at St John’s School and Sixth Form College, said: “This has been an exciting project for St John’s and we are extremely grateful for the generosity and support of the Football Foundation and Sport England in bringing this stateoftheart facility to fruition.
“The new artificial pitch, complete with floodlights, is great for our students and local people, fantastic for bringing communities together and a source of inspiration for all those aspiring footballers and sportsmen and women.”