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Manchester United legend Denis Irwin pitches in to unveil new all-weather football hub

Former Manchester United FC defender Denis Irwin recently opened a new community sports facility at Manchester Health Academy in Wythenshawe. The Champions League-winning left back was joined on the day by Football Foundation President, Lord Pendry, and local MP Mike Kane. 

Funded by a £386,583 grant from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund, the state-of-the-art, floodlit pitch will be used by over 1,000 new local people on a weekly basis. The seven-time Premier League champion was excited at the prospect of health and fitness improvements within the local community, with the new site creating as many as 60 new grassroots football teams: 

“Unveiling this new pitch was a pleasure for me, especially seeing so many youngsters out enjoying their football. It’s a wonderful facility and will no doubt become a magnet for people to visit and enjoy playing sport at.”

The Manchester United Foundation has been a partner of the school for eight years, meaning they will deliver a large proportion of the provision at the new site. This will include their girls’ development, leadership and Street Reds community outreach sessions, which will be overseen by an on-site Manchester United Foundation Hub Officer.

Republic of Ireland international Irwin was once described by Sir Alex Ferguson as his “pound-for-pound” best ever signing. He was delighted by the work of his old club, saying:  

“Having spent 12 great years with United, I am really pleased to see them involved so much at the school. They are doing great work to provide opportunities for students here, as well as out in the community. Facilities like this are vital to help them reach people. It’s not necessarily about turning pro, it’s about making sure people stay fit and healthy, make new friends and start out on the right path in life.” 

Our video from the day is available here, and you can check out our Flickr album of the event here. Finally, to see our EXCLUSIVE Q&A with Denis, where we talk to him about the best United teammates he played with and the treble-winning season of 1999, visit our YouTube channel. 
Last week marked the annual FA Girls' Football Week, a national campaign that aims to engage as many girls as possible in football. During the week, the entire football community sought to encourage female participation in the game, with specialist sessions being run at schools, universities, colleges, clubs, community groups and other organisations across the country.   

The FA's Women's Football Strategy, as featured in our ONSIDE 39 magazine, aims to double female participation in the game by 2020. In 2016, over 130,000 girls took part in football sessions, and last week's initiative was the latest in a long line which The FA hopes will increase female participation year-on-year. 

The campaign followed another successful year on the field for the Lionesses, as they reached the semi-finals of Euro 2017 in August, just two years after their fantastic run to the World Cup semi-finals in 2015. August also saw The FA launch their bid to host the UEFA Women's European Championships on English soil in 2021, a sign of their commitment to the country's female game. 

For all the latest news on the women's and girls' game, visit    
Last Wednesday (8 November) saw the 2017 Football Black List (FBL) celebration evening. Supported by the Premier League, the event celebrated role models from African and Caribbean communities working in football, and raised awareness of the under representation of people of colour from grassroots to board level. 

Co-founded by Leon Mann and Rodney Hinds, the FBL 
aims to highlight the work of black role models, working across a wide range of positions in football, to encourage young people to think about opportunities in the game beyond the field of play. 

Award categories on the night spanned the fields of coaching and management, administration, media, commercial, community and practitioners. Jermain Defoe, Alex Scott, Yaya Toure and Kick It Out Education Manager, Troy Townsend, were among those to receive awards.

In tribute to Ugo Ehiogu, who passed away this year, the 'One to Watch' award was named in his honour. There was a tribute from his former teammate, England Manager and Football Foundation Ambassador Gareth Southgate, and from Richard Scudamore, who described Ugo as “a great person who used his profile to support charities and inspire positive change in the sport and beyond.”

To see more from the evening, visit
We recently sat down with Dan Walker, host of BBC Breakfast and Football Focus, to chat about his role as a Football Foundation Ambassador, early morning starts and the growing popularity of Egg Club!  

Q: Did you play grassroots football as a kid? If so, what are your memories? 
A: Yes, I played football for about 19 hours a day growing up, and even asked my parents to change my name to Glenn after the legendary Hoddle! I spent a good many afternoons on the pitches at Crawley Leisure Centre with my friends, but there was a lot of rolling around in mud. I certainly wasn’t blessed with the all-weather pitches of today.

Q: You’ve opened some of our facilities before – what strikes you most about them?
A: The quality of the surface at Wisewood in Sheffield really struck me. Every time I drive past it, it is crammed with footballers. It is great to see and I know it makes a difference to loads of teams in the area.

Q: You displayed all the attributes for a career in broadcasting in your younger days – tell us about commentating on people shopping in the supermarket… 
A: I used to commentate on everything  from my brother reading a book, to me curling Hoddle-esque free kicks into the side of my dad's garden shed. My mum once found me crouching in a frozen food aisle of our local supermarket, commentating on an old lady selecting vegetables from a freezer: “She touched the cauliflower but, at the last minute, she's gone for the broccoli!"

Q: How did you find the transition from largely sports-based journalism to presenting BBC Breakfast?
A: I always think that, if you can cope with live sport, you can cope with anything. I worked in news many moons ago and now I'm in a privileged position straddling both disciplines. The only difference is that I have to wear a tie on Breakfast!

Q: Exactly how early do you have to get up each morning? You must reach for the coffee first thing, right?
A: I have four alarms! The first goes off at 3.11am and the others are staggered every few minutes after that. I've only slept in once Louise Minchin rang me at 4.45am to ask if I was still coming in. I've never put my pants on so quickly! And you might not believe this but I've never had a cup of coffee in my life coffee is for losers. 

Q: Any funny stories from your time on the sofa that you haven’t previously divulged?
A: Well recently we had the world’s strongest man – Eddie Hall – on the programme, and I felt the urge to test his strength. He promptly shoulder pressed me on live TV as if I was a rag-doll! It went down very well, but you should have heard the director having an absolute meltdown in my ear: “What if he drops him off the back of the sofa...?!”

Q: Finally, can you tell us about Egg Club, and what are the key traits of a successful application?
A: The whole Egg Club thing has become quite ridiculous! I am now stopped in the street by people shouting at me for not letting them in. Pro-golfer Chris Paisley now refuses to talk to me because I spurned his entry for over-elaborate cutlery! I like to keep my eggs plain, simple and usually poached. I am amazed that people care so much, but most weekends I get over 1,000 entries! However, as I write there are only four members of the Egg Club.
Last week, the football community celebrated The FA's Girls' Football Week. To mark the occasion, we look back at some of our best facility openings to feature this country's finest female football stars. 
Firstly, it's former England and Arsenal Ladies Captain Faye White MBE. Faye, who won a staggering 31 trophies in her illustrious career, was on hand to unveil a stunning new all-weather football hub at Coloma Convent Girls’ School's in Croydon back in 2010.
Capped 129 times, another Lioness legend is Rachel Yankey. Shortly after representing Team GB at London 2012, Rachel helped us to open a new changing pavilion and Multi-Use Games Area at Gibbons Recreational Ground in North London.  
Rachel also attended our next event, alongside our third female star, Hope Powell. The former England Ladies international, turned national team manager, officially unveiled a new state-of-the-art all-weather pitch and changing pavilion in Dunstable, Bedfordshire
Back in November of last year, we were joined by former Lionesses goalkeeper Rachel Brown-Finnis at the opening of our football hub at Flixton Girl's School, Manchester. The new facility transformed the local women's game, creating 10 new female teams.     
Finally, it's Emma Coates. In July of this year, the manager of Doncaster Rovers Belles LFC was on hand at Sherburn High School to open their new all-weather football pitch, which is expected to increase local football participation by 248%
The changing pavilion at High Halden Parish Council, in Kent, was completely transformed thanks to a £76,330 grant from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund. The dilapidated facility was demolished, with a state-of-the-art building erected in its place. The new pavilion provides a safe and comfortable grassroots football environment, comprising: two changing rooms with en-suite facilities; officials’ changing room; multi-use clubroom; kitchen and spectator toilets. The facility was officially opened for the use of its two partner clubs back in early 2016. 
Here are some jobs currently open for applications within the world of sport:
Communications Officer Intern – Football Foundation
Grant Manager – Football Foundation
Projects Coordinator – Football Foundation 

Chief Executive Officer – Level Playing Field
Head of Volunteering & Social Action – Football Beyond Borders
Sports Centre Manager – Middlesex FA
  • Borussia Dortmund defender Raphael Guerreiro produced this incredible acrobatic finish in training. An absolute peach! 
  • Cowdenbeath FC's Jordan Garden recently conceded a penalty in the most comical of fashions – by trying to tackle an opponent with his head!
  • At 3-1 down with one minute to go, Padiham FC must have thought their game against Widnes FC was all over. One unbelievable minute of football later, and we are are all reminded of why we love football so much.
  • A young footballer from Cheadle & Gatley JFC marked Remembrance Sunday by playing “The Last Post” before his match at one of our facilities in Staffordshire. A moving tribute.
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Top Corner e-newsletter - November 2017
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