Field of dreams: Charltons' old pitches get £2.3 million

FOOTBALL is coming home to the park where World Cup heroes Sir Bobby Charlton and Jack Charlton first began to play and train after £2.3m was awarded to boost its facilities.
Jack Charlton at Hirst Park.Jack Charlton at Hirst Park.
Jack Charlton at Hirst Park.

The money from the National Lottery to restore under-used football pitches at Hirst Park in Ashington, Northumberland, has been confirmed as part of a £40m boost to 13 parks and cemeteries in England and Wales.

Funding for the park will also establish an annual Charlton and Milburn Cup tournament for local youth groups to follow in the footsteps of the 1966 World Cup winning brothers and their cousin and fellow footballer Jackie Milburn.

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Other parks receiving cash from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and Big Lottery Fund England include Pearson Park in Hull, which has received £3.1m to finance improvements including rebuilding the conservatory, restoring the historic archway at its entrance, repairing the Grade II listed East Lodge to provide new offices and a meeting venue and reintroducing the bandstand.

Coun John Fareham, a member of Hull Council and the chairman of the Pearson Park Trust and Project Steering Group, said: “Pearson Park will be Hull’s first People’s Park and this investment will totally transform the park, restoring many of the key features lost over the years.”

Other parks which will benefit include Victoria Park in Stafford, Poole Park in Poole and Marble Hill in London.

Hirst Park was created in 1915 to provide green space for the rapidly expanding mining community, but has fallen into decline in recent decades.

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As well a helping inspire the next generation of footballers, the funding will support a new horticultural training centre, facilities for charities and a growing zone including therapeutic gardening.

Jack Charlton, who was spotted playing at Hirst Park by scouts from Leeds United, described the park as their “very own Wembley”, and added: “Hirst Park made it all possible for us and we would play all day if we could – and we often did.”

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