By Carl Jackson 04/07 Updated: 06/07 00:02
PREMIER LEAGUE brothers Craig and Gary Gardner cut the ribbon to officially open Meadow Park Football Club's new sporting pavilion this week.
More than 100 people were in attendance on Saturday (June 30) at the Stoke Prior's Harris Brush works - home to the club that has more than 250 players across 15 teams.
The opening marked the secured lease of the grounds for the next 20 years, following the club nearly folding in 2006.
Craig Gardner of Sunderland was watching a family friend's son play for Meadow Park, and offered to get involved when he heard about the project.
He said: "I was pIaying amateur football until the age of 14.
"I had chances to join professional teams earlier, but turned them down because you can't beat grassroots football and playing with your mates."
Youngsters have already gone on from Meadow Park to join professional academies, and former Aston Villa midfielder Craig, believes the new pavilion will only help to produce more future stars.
"You can see there's some good players already and it's only just opened.
"This is for their future - it's very important."
And living proof of that is younger brother Gary who joined the professional game much earlier.
He said: "Since the age of seven I have benefitted from facilities like this.
"It is massive for young people."
There will be no more getting in parent's cars in muddy football kits with the new pavilion boasting six changing rooms with showers for males females and officials as well as a kitchen and club room.
It was a particularly emotional day for club chairman Paul Hutchins who has shouldered much of the responsibility for fundraising the £360,000 project, along with Sarah Stanhope. Despite substantial grants, Meadow Park still had to stump up more than £70,000 itself. The VAT hike in 2010 added £16,000 alone.
Paul said: "We picked ourselves up and dusted ourselves down from that.
"Everyone here knows what they have been raising the money for - the bag packing, the auctions, the fundays in the rain.
"And so many people have done stuff for free in the pavilion meaning we saved money on the build.
"Without them it wouldn't have been possible.
"We would have lost these seven pitches and 300 children.
"The whole community has come together to do this. Its a dream come true to me."
And as recognition for his personal efforts Paul was nominated to run in the Olympic Torch relay. He completed his leg through Astwood Bank, Redditch, on Sunday (July 1).
"The atmosphere was absolutely brilliant - it was a fantastic honour and the chance of a lifetime." he added.
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