GRASSROOTS sports clubs in the New Forest have celebrated as football legends opened a new full-size pitch at Burgate School.

Former AFCB manager Harry Redknapp said Fordingbridge was "always special" to him as he declared the 3G football pitch open during a ceremony on Friday, April 26.

With a total project cost of £896,755, the facility was made possible thanks to a £601,255 grant from the Football Foundation.

Additional funding came from the New Forest District Council, The Burgate School and Sixth Form, Fordingbridge Turks FC and Fordingbridge Rugby.

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Six years of planning went into converting the old all-weather pitch into a dream facility for grassroots sports clubs across Hampshire.

Mr Redknapp, who played for and managed AFC Bournemouth for a number of years, said: "It’s a great facility, what a dream for any young person to go out and play on that."

Salisbury Journal: Harry Redknapp with young players.Harry Redknapp with young players. (Image: Burgate School)

Recalling a season when AFCB's usual training pitch was out of action and Mr Redknapp heavily replied upon the Fordingbridge Recreation Ground, he added: "I don’t know what we would have done that season.

“It’s nice to be back in Fordingbridge, it’s a club always close to my heart."

A steering committee for the new pitch has a remit to broaden the age and ability of those participating in football, rugby and a range of other sports, particularly amongst low participation groups.

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This committee promises to boost sports clubs in the local area by providing affordable access for both young people and adults.

Mel Gill, committee member at the volunteer-run Fordbingbridge Turks, said it “really is a dream come true for the club”.

Salisbury Journal: Mel Gill, from Fordingbridge Turks, and Sasha Nicholas from Hampshire Football Association.Mel Gill, from Fordingbridge Turks, and Sasha Nicholas from Hampshire Football Association. (Image: Newsquest)

“It has completely transformed the club, it's put us on a really sustainable footing going forward and it wouldn't have been possible without the Football Foundation," she added.

"The first day we trained on it it was absolutely pouring down with rain but the smile on everybody’s faces was amazing."

Retired AFC Bournemouth player Steve Fletcher and current midfielder Tyler Adams also joined Mr Redknapp to inspire young players during the ceremony.

Salisbury Journal: Steve Fletcher and Tyler Adams with the young players.Steve Fletcher and Tyler Adams with the young players. (Image: Burgate School)

Mr Adams said: "This is unbelievably monumental for AFCB to show the support we have in the community. Having events like this is what it's about.

"For me, the community in football brings it together and to play a part in this is a no-brainer for me."

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Headteacher David Pover praised the collaborative relationship between local groups which has achieved something for the community.

“It’s a very proud moment to have some local heroes in Harry Redknapp, Steve Fletcher and Tyler Adams," added Mr Pover.

Salisbury Journal: Harry Redknapp with David Pover.Harry Redknapp with David Pover. (Image: Burgate School)

Robert Sullivan, chief executive of the Football Foundation, said: “The Football Foundation is working closely with our partners – the Premier League, The FA and Government – to transform the quality of grassroots facilities in England by delivering projects like this across the country. 

“Good quality playing facilities have a transformative impact on physical and mental health and play an important role in bringing people together and strengthening local communities. 

“This grant award to The Burgate School and Sixth Form towards creating a new 3G football turf pitch is fantastic news for the local community and will help give more people access to a great place to play.”