FOOTBALL legend Sir Trevor Brooking was in the region to open a £1.8m football centre.
The former England and West Ham midfielder opened the Russell Foster Football Centre, in Staddon Way, Newbottle, near Houghton-le-Spring.
Sir Trevor said: “This is a wonderful facility and one that The Russell Foster Tyne and Wear Youth League and the local community should be very proud of.
“It is essential that communities are able to access facilities where they can be safe and enjoy quality coaching. Playing sport can teach people – especially young people – essential life skills, such as communication and teamwork.
“These facilities are for everyone to enjoy, irrespective of the level at which they play. However for a talented few, they may well be where the next generation of elite players will initially hone their skills.”
The centre will be the headquarters of the Russell Foster Tyne and Wear Youth League, and provides 21 grass pitches, office space, classrooms and changing rooms.
The league, founded in 1975, has produced many famous professional players, including Andy Carroll and Michael Carrick, and has about 14,000 active members, making it the largest youth league anywhere in the country.
The Football Foundation provided a £988,869 grant towards the centre.
Mick Clark, secretary at the Russell Foster Football Centre, said: “I am absolutely delighted to be part of the first purposebuilt mini-soccer centre in the country. I would like to thank the Football Foundation for all their support and expertise and also Sir Trevor for officially opening our new home.”