Former Saints boss Adkins opens incredible £812,000 football hub at Applemore College

Former Southampton FC Manager and Football Foundation Ambassador, Nigel Adkins, stopped by Applemore College to officially open the school’s new £812,552 third generation (3G) artificial grass pitch (AGP).

Adkins, who took the Saints from the foot of League One to the Premier League in 2012, unveiled a plaque with Headteacher Roland Marsh to commemorate the official opening of the new pitch. The promotion winner then imparted coaching advice to budding young sportspeople as he toured the new surface, before speaking at length with students in a Q&A session about his career as a player, physio and manager.

The project was made possible thanks to a £265,364 grant from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund, which provides grants towards developing new or refurbished grassroots football facilities. A £280,000 grant was also received from Sport England.

The 106m x 70m state-of-the-art surface replaces run-down natural grass pitches, which were prone to waterlogging meaning training and matches were often postponed, especially during the winter months. The new artificial pitch is also floodlit meaning that play can continue even when it is dark.

Applemore College worked alongside the Football Foundation and Hampshire FA to put together a five-year Football Development Plan (FDP), which is a vision for how sport will be played on-site with an emphasis on increasing participation.

As a result, the new facility will be used by the college’s 670 students and local partner club Hythe and Dibden YFC, who are forecast to create nine new teams. The College also has a partnership in place with Southampton FC, which sees young players from its Academy use the facility to hone their skills, as well as gaining qualifications through the school.

Currently, six Saints Academy players attend the school with more planned in the September intake. These are: Zuriel Otseh-Taiwo (Year 9); Daniel Ogunleye, Rudy Andrew-Knott, Isaiah Jones (Year 10); Nana Adarkwa and Seco Balde (Year 11).

The pitch will facilitate disability football in partnership with Oak Lodge Special School and female participation will also increase. Estimates suggest that there will be a 40% increase in the number of disabled and female players using the facility over the next five years, while the number of players in the Under-14 and Under-16 age groups will rocket by 197%.

The site is also set to establish itself as a centre for Mini-Soccer and 9v9 football thanks to the newly established New Forest Youth League. Also, an on-site Football Development Co-ordinator will help to develop a Futsal league, which is designed to increase participation rates on the pitch even further.

In addition to the Hampshire FA using the site as a centre for coach and referee training and education courses, it will have a strong multi-sport offering thanks to ‘shock pads’ fitted underneath the pitch which means sports such as rugby can also be played on it.

The Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund provides grants towards developing new or refurbished grassroots football facilities. It is funded by the Premier League, The FA, and the Government, via Sport England. It is delivered by the Football Foundation, the country’s largest sports charity. Since it was launched in 2000, the Foundation has awarded around 15,000 grants worth nearly £580m towards improving grassroots sport, which it has used to attract additional partnership funding of £800m – over £1.4bn of investment into the grassroots game.

Since 2000, the Football Foundation Funding Partners’ investment has provided 413 grants worth £17m towards grassroots sports projects worth £40m across the whole of Hampshire.

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.

Many of the new state-of-the-art facilities will serve to strengthen the connection between professional football clubs and their local communities, particularly in the most deprived areas of the country, through the professional clubs’ community trusts’ outreach work.

Nigel Adkins said: “What an absolutely incredible facility. It was a real pleasure to open it for Applemore – you can see the huge impact it is going to have just from watching the students already using it. The beauty of this pitch, and the Football Development Plan which underpins it, is that it will cater for all sections of the community all-year-round.

“Grassroots football in Hampshire is better off thanks to this facility. Students, teachers, parents, local clubs, disabled footballers, boys, girls, men and women all have somewhere to call their ‘home ground.’ Somewhere to come and play football simply because they love the game. As a by-product, they’ll become fitter and healthier without even noticing.

“Credit must go to the Premier League, The FA and the Government, via Sport England, for providing the money to make the College’s dream a reality. As someone who has been fortunate enough to play and manage professionally, it is fantastic to see money from the very top of the game flowing down to the grassroots level.

“Who knows, maybe Applemore College can produce some future stars of the game. The area has been a conveyor belt of talent over the years and this new pitch, combined with Southampton FC’s influence, can help to continue that trend. So, a massive well done to everyone involved in making this happen and I hope you enjoy your football for many years to come.”

Roland Marsh, Headteacher of Applemore College, said: “We are very grateful to Nigel Adkins for opening this fantastic new community resource. Without the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund this project would never have got off the ground, but now, this pitch will transform grassroots football by providing a state of the art facility for all to enjoy and flourish in the future.”

Paul Thorogood, Chief Executive of the Football Foundation, said: “I am delighted that a grant from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund has enabled Applemore College to upgrade to a 3G football turf pitch. This development will provide a real boost to sport in the local area. I must thank Football Foundation Ambassador, Nigel Adkins, for opening the facility.

“Since 2000, the Football Foundation has supported grassroots projects worth more than £1.4bn, investing into areas where the need is greatest and where it will have the biggest impact in terms of getting more people playing football and a wide range of other sports. 

“With this funding, provided by the Premier League, The FA and the Government through Sport England, we are helping to improve community sports facilities across the country and thereby the playing experience of those who take part. This latest project in Southampton is the latest addition to the inventory of modern community sports sites we are developing that cater for the needs of local people who want to play sport purely for the love of it and to stay healthy.”