Sunderland football heroes Jordan Pickford, Steph Houghton, Jill Scott and Jimmy Montgomery back new £18million football hubs
Sunderland football stars both past and present have hailed the opening of new state-of-the-art pitches across Wearside.
The three new £18m hubs are at Downhill, Washington and Ford, where ten full-size artificial pitches have been created, as well as new changing facilities, gyms, cafes, club houses and social and educational areas.
Sunderland’s 1973 FA Cup winning goalkeeper, Jimmy Montgomery, was among those at the opening of the Downhill base on Tuesday, February 18, where he faced a few shots from youngsters from the Redhouse community group, I Am Sorts, and reminisce about how different pitches were when he was a lad.
He joked: “They were okay by the time we got the stones off the pitch! Most of the pitches are gone now from when I was around.
“I’m pleased with the city council, because they get so much stick about playing fields being sold off, etc.
“The facilities here are for all ages; adults, boys, girls. To have three hubs in Sunderland is absolutely brilliant. It gets kids off the streets and off their gadgets and phones.”
Current England goalkeeper and former Black Cat Jordan Pickford sent a supportive video message ahead of the opening, as did England Women skipper Steph Houghton and fellow international Jill Scott.
Jordan said: “I am over the moon about the fantastic developments with the Football Foundation in Sunderland.
“For me as a northern lad, I used to play in the Russell Foster League when I was younger and throughout the generations my family, my brother, used to play and now my nephew plays there.
“It’s just great to see the facilities they are able to play on today with the hubs and hopefully bring many more talent through the north east.”
Steph added: “It’s great to see the Football Foundation do so much for local football pitches around the North East area.
“I think it’s vitally important for young people, girls and boys, to be able to have that access to facilities to make sure they can play the asport that they love.”
The project, which also accommodates rugby, was funded by a £14million grant from the Premier League, the FA and the government’s Football Foundation, as well as £3.8m from Sunderland City Council.
The project is the first in the region and only the fourth in the country.
Speaking at the Downhill site, council leader Graeme Miller was keen to stress the health benefits.
He said: “The best thing about being here today is seeing Downhill as one of the three sites opening across Sunderland for our all-weather football pitches.
“We’ve got four pitches in Washington already as part of an £18million investment in all-weather pitches, which we’ve worked for in partnership with the FA, Sport England and the government’s Football Foundation.
“This is a clear indication of Sunderland’s attempt to be a healthier, more vibrant place to live. This should mean the young people, from seven up to 70, boys, girls all playing football. I’m delighted we’re finally here. This is just the start.”