FOOTBALL is coming home to the childhood park of Leeds United legend Jack Charlton and his brother Sir Bobby, with a £2.3 million boost to its facilities.
Hirst Park, in Ashington, Northumberland, is one of 12 parks and cemeteries across the country receiving a share of £32 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Big Lottery Fund.
Sir Bobby and Jack Charlton both welcomed the news Hirst Park would get funding.
The cash would be used to restore the underused football pitches and establish an annual tournament for local youth groups.
Jack Charlton, who was spotted there by scouts from Leeds United, described the park as “our very own Wembley” where, as boys, the England World Cup-winning players spent their days.
“The football pitches where we played were created on the ash tip from the colliery and these were our first training grounds - our very own Wembley,” Jack Charlton said.
“The park was a precious place where me and Bobby learned our craft, training and playing for fun, before going on to join Leeds and Manchester United and then playing in the World Cup-winning England side in 1966.
“Hirst Park made it all possible for us and we would play all day if we could ... and we often did.”
His brother Sir Bobby added: “Hirst Park is as necessary and valuable to the youth of today as it was for me.
“Thanks to the generosity of the National Lottery may it continue to flourish for the benefit of the community.”
In addition to restoring the pitches, reviving the park’s footballing heritage and launching the annual tournament, the promise of funding would also see a new horticultural training centre developed, as well as a water splash zone and facility for charities.
Heritage Lottery Fund chairman Sir Peter Luff said: “Our parks are where we play some of our first games, where we make some of our first discoveries and where some of us take our first steps to stardom.
“However we use them, parks are an important part of life, which is why we’re delighted to be investing National Lottery players’ money in parks and cemeteries from Bristol to Helensburgh to carry out vital regeneration and create some wonderful opportunities for communities and wildlife.”
Funding has also been announced for Sheffield’s General Cemetery Park, which will receive £3,528,000.