Grassroots football is key, keeping people from playing Virgin games all day. We simply wouldn’t have the sport we all love if it weren’t for the very building blocks that help to form every young footballer – facilities and coaching. And this is what makes the Football Foundation’s work so special, as they are on the frontline, ensuring that the raw materials are in place.
We spoke to Sky Sports News presenter, Hayley McQueen, at the opening of a new £470,554 floodlit, 3G artificial grass pitch Woodhouse College in Finchley, North London, which was made was made possible thanks to a £220,554 grant from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund, which is delivered by the Football Foundation.
It was Hayley McQueen’s first official engagement as an Ambassador for the Football Foundation and we caught up with her to get her views on the new facilities and the work the Football Foundation does, as well as some of the big stories in football right now. Enjoy!
Could you tell us where you are and what you are doing today, Hayley?
“Today is the opening of a fancy, new exciting 3G pitch, which is floodlit, at Woodhouse College. We’ve had a tour of the building, which is a very traditional old college, but very forward thinking with modern technology. This is not just for the children [at the college], but other football teams as well, so other teams around the area can benefit from the facilities, too. It’s been in action since January, but today is the grand opening.”
How important is it that the Premier League & Facilities Fund, through the Football Foundation, continue investing in top class facilities like the new one at Woodhouse College?
“It’s hugely important. The future of football depends on the grassroots game. If there wasn’t the funding I’m sure we wouldn’t have the talent in Britain that we see now, not just at the top level, but when you drop down through all of the leagues and even in non-league football, too. If you’re not being coached and you don’t have the facilities, interest will then wane. Also, having been shown around the college, where the kids are in their classrooms, heads down, learning, it shows that this will allow them the freedom relax a bit and use sport as a break from studies. As well as this, the pitch gets them out being active. We’ve seen over the years with modern technology people aren’t out getting as much exercise as maybe when I was growing up.
“Looking at some of the stats, since 2000 the Football Foundation has delivered £1.3bn of grassroots investment across the whole of the country, with 589 all-weather pitches, which is amazing.”
Do you think this sort of investment can help to unearth the new Dele Allis and Harry Kanes of English football?
“Players like Dele Alli and Jamie Vardy, and you’ve got your Chris Smallings and others as well, are guys who’ve come from local, lower league teams, and everybody is discovered somewhere, not every player comes through an academy. Quite often kids are discovered by just having a kick-about, and scouts from the big clubs are often coming out to look for this talent to unearth the next big players. So more pitches that they’re aware of where there are kids out there playing football, even if it’s just for a school team, or a local side, means more talent can be discovered. More pitches means more chance of finding talent.”
Moving away from this and on to some current football chat… Leicester have sewn up – barring a disaster – the Premier League title, is this the greatest achievement in the Premier League era?
“Yes, I think it will be the greatest achievement. Everyone describes the Jamie Vardy story as like ‘Roy of the Rovers’, and that’s what it is. These are the stories as journalists and football fans that you want to see happening, and it seems like every neutral up and down the country has become a Leicester fan. It’s an amazing story, and even if it weren’t Leicester I wouldn’t mind Tottenham winning the league just to upset the form and have the whole situation of the rivalry between them and Arsenal. But for Leicester to come and do something completely, completely unexpected makes it all the more magical.
“Who’d have thought that Leicester could potentially being going to Manchester United with three games left to play with the chance of winning the title? If you’d have said at the beginning of the season that a team would be able to win the title at Old Trafford at this stage of the season you would have said ‘of course, Manchester United’, but no, it’s Leicester.
Manchester United have made the FA Cup Final, do you think winning the trophy at Wembley will be enough to save Van Gaal’s job?
“Yes, I think it would. But the crazy thing is that you have some Manchester United fans at the moment almost not minding if the team don’t win the FA Cup because they dislike Van Gaal so much that they don’t want him at the club. I wouldn’t say it’s the majority of the fans, but opinion seems split and there are those against him. I don’t know why he’s not popular; he’s a great character after all. Okay, he hasn’t achieved what Manchester United fans wanted him to achieve, but not winning the FA Cup wouldn’t be a disaster.”
EURO 2016 now not far away, how far do you think England can go in France?
“Realistically, getting out of the group stages would be something. It’s a real shame they’re in the same group as Wales. I was at the PFA awards the other night and there was Martin O’Neill, Michael O’Neill, Chris Coleman and Roy Hodgson all chatting about the EUROs, and it’s just such a shame that they have to come up against each other so soon and potentially a result come about that will mean one of the two doesn’t go through.”
“I think semi-final. Why not? This is the first tournament we’ve gone into where there’s an abundance of talent up front. It’s at the point where you can now take Wayne Rooney out of things and still have enough good strikers. I just think with such amazing talent heading into the tournament, ‘why not?’ This is also the first year we haven’t placed too much pressure on the side, like we have done in the past, and I think we’ll just go with the flow and see what happens.”
Hayley McQueen was speaking at the launch of Woodhouse College in Finchley, North London’s new 3G pitch, her first event as a Football Foundation Ambassador. The project was made possible thanks to a £220,554 grant from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund, which is delivered by the Football Foundation on behalf of its Funding Partners: the Premier League, The FA and the Government, via Sport England.