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Kane returns
ONSIDE magazine

In Issue 38 of ONSIDE, Deputy editor, Niall Malone, looks into the past and present impact of a newly redeveloped sports complex in East London, following its official opening by one of its most famous former users.

Kane returns

“Not so long ago, I was just like those kids who are using the facility now, training hard and enjoying my football – we all start out in the grassroots game after all.”

Harry Kane

Peter May Sports Centre at a glance

The bright future that lies ahead of Spurs and England striker Harry Kane, is now mirrored by the artificial football pitch where he honed his skills once-upon-a-time. The Peter May Sports Centre, in Walthamstow, is where a young Kane learned his trade and first attracted the interest of eagle-eyed scouts keen to snap up the precocious talent.

Harry Kane being interviewed

Even before Harry had come and gone, the Peter May Sports Centre had already played a huge role in the development of David Beckham, who grew up practising his famous pinpoint delivery on the playing field, and England cricketer, Ravi Bopara, who perfected his game on one of the many cricket pitches also on offer at the ground. 

The centre is named after Peter May, who captained England in 41 Tests and skippered Surrey to successive county championships, and the appreciation of these major sporting figures who have gone before is palpable amongst the modern day users of the site.

As well as paving the way for star-studded alumni, the centre is a starting point for thousands of other local grassroots sportspeople who may not be fortunate enough to turn professional in their respective disciplines, but nevertheless play their sport purely for the love of doing so. If nothing else, these East London playing fields have kept an entire generation of surrounding communities active and healthy.

The Kanes were one such family. Growing up nearby, Harry was rarely without a ball at his feet – likewise his brother Charlie – with their Mum and Dad cheering their progress from the touchline.

They weren’t alone either. Hundreds of parents still do exactly the same at Peter May every weekend, many during the week too, underlining the fact that these types of facility are real community hubs. This is something that isn’t lost on Kane: “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.”

“Grassroots football facilities, like the Peter May Sports Centre, are where a love of sport starts and for the gifted few, where careers begin. They are the golden thread that link the grassroots to the elite end of the game,” maintains Alex Welsh, London Playing Fields Foundation’s CEO and one of Kane’s first ever football coaches. Welsh is adamant: “When youngsters are playing football they need something to inspire them and in Harry’s case it was having access to a pitch, albeit not as good as the one that is there now, where he could train and play with his team mates.”

Welsh has spent most of his career coaching kids, so few are better placed to provide such a forensic analysis of the grassroots game. More pitches are needed, not only to produce more players of Kane’s quality – that remains a fortunate by-product of these facilities – but to make sure that the greatest number of people possible have access to quality facilities in which to play sport.

This is an extract from the feature 'Kane Returns' in Issue 38 of ONSIDE magazine.

Read the full article for free at the following links:

Also in Issue 38

Guest Editorial

James Beattie – former Southampton FC, Everton FC and England striker, and Football Foundation Ambassador

Interview with FA CEO Martin Glenn

Martin Glenn talks about his priorities and ambitions for football, and how he thinks Leicester managed  that 5000-1 Premier League title win.

Creating a platform for Manchester's community

John Shiels, CEO of the Manchester United Foundation tells us about the impact of their work and how important Football Foundation-funded facilities are across Greater Manchester.


Find out how our PitchFinder tool allows people to find their perfect local pitch, and how the Foundation uses it to strategically target areas in need of investment.

Growing the Game

We analyse how our popular club development scheme Grow the Game is achieving increases in participation amongst under-represented groups.

An extract from... Ed Smith

Read this fascinating extract from ‘Luck’ a book by Times columnist, author and former England cricketer, Ed Smith.