Neil Barber's legacy aim after gelling with stars at FA bash
NEIL Barber has set his sights on attracting a "top coach" to North East Lincolnshire after being named as an FA Ambassador.
The 48-year-old rubbed shoulders with footballing royalty at the FA's glitzy 150-year anniversary bash last week.
His nomination as an ambassador came hot on the heels of being named as the FA's Volunteer of the Year in October for his work with West Marsh Community Centre Junior Football Club.
And after returning to work at the Armstrong Street centre, Barber hopes to benefit grassroots football in North East Lincolnshire.
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"It's a great honour to be made one of 150 ambassadors," he told the Telegraph. "Other ambassadors are people such as Bobby Charlton, David Beckham and Alan Shearer as well as Trevor Brooking and Michael Owen – the list goes on!
"My job as an ambassador is to support the FA's events as and when they come up. In turn, the FA will support me in the delivery of coaching that we do at the centre.
"I'm hoping that it will have a big impact for the area," he added. "I'm hoping that me being an ambassador will give us new coaching techniques for us to use at our centre, and therefore, our delivery, in due course will become better.
"I'm hoping that it will also mean that we can receive more equipment such as balls, bibs and the like.
"It's good for the West Marsh Community Centre in the first instance, but I'm hoping it will also be good news for the whole area.
"I'm would like to try and work with the FA to try and bring one of the top coaches to the area. That would allow people to witness coaching at a totally different level, it would be great for local grassroots football – that's my aim for the coming year."
Barber admitted to being star-struck when he attended last week's anniversary bash, which was held Grand Connaught Rooms in London – the location for the original meeting of the FA's founding fathers in 1863.
Among those in attendance was England manager Roy Hodgson along with four of his predecessors, as well as top Premier League referee Howard Webb.
"It was fantastic to attend the anniversary event, to mix with the kind of people that were there – for a commoner like me, was unreal!" added Barber. "Everywhere you turned there was a famous face and it was a great experience.
"Sven-Göran Eriksson, Fabio Capello, Hodgson, Terry Venables and Graham Taylor were all there so it was fantastic to be in their company. Howard Webb was there and, being a former referee, it was great to meet him as well as Mike Riley and David Elleray.
"They were all really down to earth, as were everyone at the event. All in all it was a very exciting day – long, but exciting.
"It was all planned around the Sky broadcast that they were doing, interspersed with the video messages from people like Steven Gerrard and David Beckham – it really was a pleasure to be there."
Barber, who founded West Marsh Community Centre JFC in 1999, believes grassroots football in North East Lincolnshire is strong, but said more can still be done to improve it further.
He added: "In general, I think grassroots football is very strong locally. Some people think that grassroots starts at semi-professional level but in truth, it starts at the level we operate at – where the little kid comes with two left boots and they need your help to tie them – that's grassroots.
"That's where some of the money needs to be spent and that's what the FA are trying to do. They've got a comprehensive programme of events for the rest of the year to promote their 150th anniversary as well as their two key priorities, which are an increase in girls and ladies football and a big investment in grassroots football.
"The FA have pledged to help as many areas as possible and I'm going to make sure North East Lincolnshire is high up the list."