FOOTBALL is coming home for Eccleshall’s junior club after its funding dreams came true.Eccleshall Eagles are celebrating a £448,000 grant from the Football Foundation, the country’s largest sports charity, to help develop their new home ground at Drake Hall.
The club has received grants totalling £700,000, with support also coming from Staffordshire County Council, Staffordshire Environmental Fund, Lloyds TSB and Sport England.
It is hoped work will begin on the new pitches this year and teams would begin playing there in the 2014/15 season.
Once complete, the site will have three full-sized junior pitches and a clubhouse.
Currently the 12 junior teams have to use pitches scattered across the north and west of the county. The club was formed in 2001 and has swelled to 180 members, with growth outstripping the availability of local pitches.
On some occasions the club has used converted farmers’ fields and once had to move cows off a pitch before they could train.
Jeremy Pert, community liaison officer for Eccleshall Eagles, said: “Many of the pitches are completely unsuitable for training, let alone playing competitive football matches - and the distances that young people are forced to travel is a very real barrier. “Some of the pitches still have the ruts
from farmers’ tractors and others become waterlogged quickly or have insufficient grass to last a season and become like barren dust bowls one minute and mud baths the next, depending on the weather.”
The club, named Charter Standard Club of the Year by Staffordshire FA for the 2010/11 season, has spent five years working with partners to find a new base for its players, aged between six and 17 years old.
Club chairman Jon Busfield said: “We are absolutely delighted that the Football Foundation and Staffordshire County Council have supported the club’s development plans, alongside existing commitments from Sport England, Staffordshire Environmental Fund and Lloyds Bank.
“Without all of their support, working collaboratively with the club, we would never have been able to create these new pitches and clubhouse. We would like to thank them, as would, I am sure, a generation of grateful young people in the Eccleshall area who are going to benefit from this.
“The club has some great development plans, including extending our new girls’ section as well as developing greater coaching and player development.
“We are really looking forward to our first competitive season playing at our new ground - it will be like playing in a cup final every weekend playing here.”