MANCHESTER UNITED FOUNDATION
THE Manchester United Foundation works in some of the most disadvantaged areas across Greater Manchester and uses the passion for Manchester United to educate, motivate and inspire young people.
It delivers football coaching, skills training, personal development and life-changing experiences, providing young people with opportunities to change their lives for the better.
In this, its first column for the Manchester Weekly News, the group shares news of a visit from a United legend.
Former Manchester United and Northern Ireland midfielder Norman Whiteside was the guest of honour at Manchester United Foundation partner school, Manchester Health Academy, during the recent opening of a new 3G pitch facility at the Wythenshawe school.
Whiteside, who has played in two world cups with Northern Ireland and twice won the FA Cup with Manchester United, reminisced about his own footballing experiences as a youngster.
He said: “We used to just play in the street and had nothing like this.
“Even with the first astro turf pitches at Luton and QPR, they used to be like concrete with a green carpet on top.
“These pitches nowadays are phenomenal with all the weather they can sustain – it’s the closest you’ll get to grass, although I don’t know about doing slide tackles.
“These pitches are great for grassroots development, we started that way but we didn’t have the facilities.
“Apart from it being used for the school, the community also benefits from the facility with private bookings, as the flood lights allow you to play for longer during the evenings.
“The headmaster says that outside of school it’s almost always full, which has to be a good thing.”
Foundation coach Lee Caldwell, who is based at Manchester Health Academy, explained how beneficial the pitch would be to the school.
He said: “The pitch provides the school with an opportunity to always play football no matter what the conditions are like.
“The pupils can see it’s a first class facility and they don’t need boots, so are always engaged play.
“The fact that the pitch is hired out to the local community and it can finance itself and future projects within the school is fantastic.”
For more information about the Manchester United Foundation, visit www.mufoundation.org.
● Former Manchester United and Northern Ireland midfielder Norman Whiteside at the opening of a new 3G pitch at Manchester Health Academy. Above he is pictured with school-based Foundation coach Lee Caldwell and United mascot Fred the Red. Left, he is pictured with school governor David Dean, left, and school principal Damian Owen, right