Sunderland striker Duncan Watmore opened St John’s School and Sixth Form College’s new £614,950 third generation (3G) artificial grass pitch in Durham on April 19 in his first role as a Football Foundation Ambassador.
Watmore; 22, who signed a new four-year contract with the Black Cats in November last year, following impressive performances for Sunderland and also for the England Under-21 team. Notably, he netted a goal and provided two assists against Switzerland in a 2017 UEFA European Under-21 Championship qualifier.
The project was made possible thanks to a £214,950 grant from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund, which is delivered by the Football Foundation. Duncan cut the ribbon at the new 106m x 70m floodlit 3G AGP, which replaced a dilapidated Multi-Use Games Area and part of a natural grass playing field that was prone to waterlogging.
“Yesterday was a really big day for everyone connected with St John’s and I’m thrilled to have played a small part by opening their new pitch for them – you can’t help but be impressed by it,” said Watmore.
“I know from speaking to people about the Football Development Plan that there simply will not be a time when someone isn’t 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 beauty of floodlit 3G pitches is that they don’t get waterlogged and you can play on them through the dark evenings. I remember trying to train on some real quagmire natural grass pitches and then having to finish the session early because it got too dark!”
The England Under-21 internationall added, “I’m absolutely delighted to be a Football Foundation Ambassador because I’ve seen first-hand how crucial their work is.
“The Foundation has been around for 16 years now, during which time it has delivered 589 of these artificial grass pitches and I know the work to build even more continues.”
Since 2000, the Football Foundation Funding Partners’ investment has provided 270 grants worth £19.3m towards grassroots sports projects worth over £62.2m across the whole of Durham.
By providing more high-quality facilities, coupled with coaching at the appropriate age group, the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund aims to improve the experience for regular players as well as attracting new players to the game.