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Gareth's grassroots passion
Onside 39 promotional banner - Gareth Southgate
ONSIDE Deputy Editor, Niall Malone, explains why the lowest levels of football are richer for the appointment of Gareth Southgate as England Manager, starting with a new facility in the West Midlands.

Gareth's grassroots passion

“Floodlit all-weather pitches allow football to be played all-year round, irrespective of the weather. This means more people, more often, taking part in the sport.”

Gareth Southgate

When it comes to supporting this country’s grassroots game, Gareth Southgate has been there and got the t-shirt – several Football Foundation branded ones in fact. Since he became an Ambassador of ours in March 2004, his commitment to helping improve facilities at the lowest levels of the game has been tireless.

Gareth Southgate leaning against a goal.png

Through the latter stages of his playing career, and then as a manager, his willingness to make time to open new all-weather pitches for example, or lend his name to promote the Grow the Game initiative, has singled him out as someone who cares deeply about the base of this country’s football pyramid.

Fitting then that even after his ascent to Manager of the England Men’s Senior team, his appetite to see more people involved in the grassroots game is no less whet. Burton Albion’s Pirelli Stadium was the latest setting for the former League Cup-winning Middlesbrough FC Captain to outline his philosophy.

“Throughout my career I’ve always been a big supporter of the grassroots game, and state-of-the-art facilities are its lifeblood,” he said on a bitterly cold Staffordshire morning. “Floodlit all-weather pitches allow football to be played all-year-round, irrespective of the weather. This means more people, more often, taking part in the sport.”

Most people who step foot on a football pitch will not play the game professionally. Though the acceptance that one’s ability might not match dreams of being paid-to-play might be sad for some, sadder still is an individual never playing in the first place, or subsequently stopping, because the facilities are inadequate.

Not so at the Perelli. Atop the previously undeveloped area behind the Brewers’ stadium now sits a pristine third generation (3G) artificial grass pitch (AGP) and a two storey changing room pavilion, complete with clubroom and offi ce space.

So impressive is the £1m complex, motorists that whizz past it from the nearby A-road could be forgiven for thinking it was the club’s new training facility. All First Team drills and other match preparations will however happen elsewhere, for this is a community hub.

Southgate encapsulated the facility’s importance, perfectly: “As a professional, I have been lucky enough to train, play and coach on some of the best facilities in the country. I believe that those who train, play or coach at the grassroots level should be afforded the same experience – and people will certainly get that here.”

This is an extract from the feature 'Gareth's Grassroots Passion' in Issue 39 of ONSIDE magazine.

Read the full article for free at the following links:

also in issue 39

The Interview: Sports Minister Tracey Crouch

The Minister talks strategy, grassroots coaching and tell us which player she pretended to be as a youngster!

There’s only one Graham Taylor

England Manager, Watford and Villa legend, and Football Foundation Ambassador who will be greatly missed. Read the heart-warming tribute to one of football's most loved men.

Ambassadors in action

Stars of stadia and screen Dion Dublin, Hayley McQueen, Lawrie McMenemy, Nigel Adkins and Georgie Bingham have been out and about on our behalf.

Taking on the boys

In an historic development, Arsenal Under 10 girls' team entered a boys'league in the 2016-17 season. We give you the inside story.

The FA's New Women's Strategy

Learn about The FA's exciting new vision to develop the women's game.

An Extract From...'Taking It On The Chin'

Foundation President Lord Pendry's rip-roaring memoirs chronicle his campaigning for grassroots sport, against Apartheid and how an incident with Muhammed Ali left him nursing a serious injury!