Opening of the All Weather Pitch for Royston at Meridian School

September 21, 2009

What a treat it was today to meet the great Peter Shilton on the opening of the All Weather Pitch for Royston at Meridian School. It was also kind of him to keep the fixture on the same day as Sir Bobby Robson’s Memorial at Durham Cathedral. Peter played England football for 8 years under Sir Bobby, often as Captain, but he explained that he had played a testimonial at Newcastle 2 days before Sir Bobby’s death and felt he had said farewell with happy memories of a great manager.

Me with Peter Shilton

Me with Peter Shilton

School Head Mike Firth explained the decade long battle to secure the funding for the Pitch and thanked Johnson Matthey Sports and Social Club and the PLC for all their help in getting the project going with substantial funding. It was noteworthy that JM’s busy CEO Neal Carson – of (let’s not forget) a major FTSE 100 Company – personally attended the launch today. In fact it was a real Royston occasion with many leading figures – councillors, including F John Smith, Council Leader and 50 years a Royston councillor and County Councillors Hunter and Hill, as well as Royston FC chief Alan Barlow.

The students are loving the new facilities and Peter Shilton spoke of the huge improvement in the quality of all weather surfaces, since the early days when as a goalie he had to dress up with Michelin Man-style padding in the early days. I asked him who should be the current England Keeper and he politely explained that he is still available for selection to add to his 120 caps. So, watch out David Beckham, you may face a moving target in trying to overtake Peter!

Spot the ball competition
Spot the ball competition

The money for the new Pitch came from the Football Foundation and the Brian Racher Trust as well as JMSSC. I think the Foundation do a great job in improving facilities and I know the late Brian Racher would be pleased too. The facilities in Royston have been transformed in recent years and our sport is now well catered for – long may it last. What’s next – perhaps a new football ground?

Peter Shilton with leading Royston figures

Peter Shilton with leading Royston figures

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Support the FA Respect campaign with Ray Winstone

March 17, 2009

When I was younger, I was joint Manager of a youth football team in Southwark with Labour MP Clive Efford – of course, neither of us was an MP then, but we did try to keep up good standards of behaviour and particularly with the referee. Of course, this is not always easy with young players and the passion football generates. Later, I used to watch my son playing youth football for Royston Eagles and although our Royston parents were well-behaved, I did notice that some teams – naturally from outside North East Herts – had very difficult parents shouting and swearing on the touchline and setting a terrible example. Some were even openly rude to the ref. Now this may be standard fare at some grounds, but it has no place in youth football and I do think some senior teams could do a lot better.

I have always liked Ray Winstone as an actor and I think it’s great that he has done a video as part of the FA’s Respect campaign. Let’s hope it works.