Talk of the Town: We should be proud of fantastic Football Development Centre
By Matt Dannatt ...
WHEN Graham Taylor officially opened the state-of-the-art Football Development Centre at Bradley, he said that it rivaled any of its kind elsewhere in the country.
The former England manager hailed the £3-million development as "fantastic", saying: "This is for the community, and it is for the community to enjoy."
And, nearly two years after the first games were played there, it seems, the community are doing just that.
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I recently visited the centre's show pitch – known as the Bradley Community Stadium – to take in the derby between top local amateur sides Grimsby Borough and Cleethorpes Town.
The game was watched by a crowd of 463 fans – a huge attendance for a Baris Northern Counties East League game and a fantastic advert for the local amateur scene.
As I was leaving, I walked past the centre's 3G artificial pitches to find them packed with players of all ages, and abilities, enjoying their sport.
The whole site was buzzing with activity that night, highlighting to me just how valuable this facility has become to the area.
Both Borough and Cleethorpes play their home games at Bradley while Grimsby Town's reinstated reserves side will also base itself there this season.
Most weeknights, and every weekend, the area's footballing fraternity descend on the centre whether it's for a league match, training session, or just a friendly kick-about.
Grimsby Town's first-team squad has even been known to use the centre to train in the winter months.
That means that the centre caters for every level of football in the area from the professionals, right down to cloggers like me.
But it's not just local footballers that are taking advantage of the facilities – cricket matches are held there while runners and cyclists also use it as a meeting point. The centre's conferencing facilities are also being used extensively, with Lincolnshire FA meetings and coaching courses held there.
So it's fair to say that the community has taken 'ownership' of the site and are certainly making full use of it – just as Taylor said it needed to.
It would be remiss of me not to acknowledge that there have been issues surrounding the site and I can only hope that those have, or are beginning, to be resolved.
Because in a time where many bemoan the disappearance of outdoor spaces for sport, we have, on our doorstep, a state-of-the-art development that boasts 12 full-size grass pitches, six mini-soccer pitches, five junior pitches, two cricket wickets and a third generation (3G) floodlit artificial grass pitch.
The Football Development Centre is a facility that the whole area should be proud of and one that would be the envy of our neighbours.
On the night that he opened the facility, Taylor also said: "The building on its own doesn't do anything – it just stays there so the use of it is very, very important."
And again, the former Grimsby Town man had it right.
The facility could have so easily become another white elephant, left unused to wither on the vine – how often do we hear that King George V stadium could be used better?
But, to me at least, the Bradley facility looks to be thriving and long may it continue.