On Thursday evening Wingate & Finchley FC celebrated the opening of their training facility, built in conjunction with their partners Hadley Wood Sports Trust, with an official ceremony presided over by Sky Sports Geoff Shreeves and featuring Arsenal legend Alan Smith and current Tottenham Hotspur and England international Harry Winks. The 4G full size floodlit astro-turf pitch, grass pitch and pavilion complex was the culmination of more than ten years of endeavour by club chair Aron Sharp, and financed by the Football Foundation.
Geoff, who paid tribute to Aron’s tireless efforts as only a close friend (“more than thirty years”) could, with a number of jokes at his expense- expressed his delight at the facility, whilst ‘Smudger’ was similarly effusive about the importance of grassroots football, recounting the importance of his start in football at Non-League Alvechurch and how it was his performances at that level that had got him noticed by Leicester City. He also suggested that Wingate & Finchley might just provide the next Jamie Vardy- Rob Laney, your time in the spotlight might be near!
Harry Winks explained how he had been lucky enough to be spotted by Tottenham’s Academy at an early age- an age similar to that of many of the players using the facility this evening. And, after taking a little light-hearted ribbing from the extremely tall former striker to his right regarding the result of a certain North London derby match at the weekend, he was quite clear about the need for such facilities if football was to be both available and enjoyable. “If we want kids to play football they need places like this; places where they can learn their technique and also enjoy themselves whilst they’re learning.” Watching the under nines running around shortly afterwards it was clear that they were certainly doing both.
We’ll leave the last word to Aron, however. In his address he talked with great emotion of the hard work that had gone into the creation of the facility, thanked those who had helped make the dream a reality, and quoted from the finance bid submitted a decade previously, when the hope had been to support one youth side. As he pointed out, there were now “hundreds of children using the facility on a weekly basis,” and he had already seen two of them progress to play professionally in the Third Round of the FA Cup. All he wanted now, he explained, was to see them in the Third Round whilst still in the colours of Wingate and Finchley.
Aron Sharp, Alan Smith, Geoff Shreeves and Harry Winks
With facilities like these, perhaps that dream isn’t all that far away.