A town that produced three of the region’s greatest soccer legends has been given a helping hand to continue keeping football at the heart of the community.
World Cup-winning brothers Bobby and Jack Charlton, and Newcastle United hero Jackie Milburn, have given their birthplace of Ashington a special significance in North East footballing folklore.
Now the former pit town’s own football club has been awarded a £38,750 grant to improve its playing facilities and to safeguard its future.
The financial boost for Ashington Community FC is the latest grant from a fund created by Rio Tinto Alcan after the closure of its 500-job aluminium smelter at Lynemouth last year.
The Legacy Fund – which has now handed out more than £480,000 to local projects and organisations – was set up to help cushion the area against the devastating loss of the county’s biggest private-sector employer.
The aim is to make communities close to the smelter site as sustainable as possible into the future.
The latest grant will be used by Ashington Community FC to upgrade and maintain its Woodhorn Lane pitch, so that it can attract money-spinning games against clubs such as Newcastle United and host prestigious regional cup finals. The money is to be spent on a five-year improvement programme, which involves the club training its own team of volunteers to take over the maintenance of the pitch, cutting long-term costs.
Club chairman, and Wansbeck Labour MP, Ian Lavery said: “This is fantastic news for our club and for the whole community.
“Brian Clough once said that if God had wanted football to be played in the air, he would have put grass in the sky. With this generous donation we can play football on a much-improved surface, and in so doing we can secure the long-term financial viability of the club.”
Despite the town’s proud place in North East football history, Ashington Community FC, like many non-league clubs, has experienced financial difficulties in recent years.
However, it remains keenly supported by local people and runs teams of all ages, male and female.
Rio Tinto’s regional economic development assistant, Joanne Hannay, said: “We recognise the role sport plays in community life and we’re lucky in this area to have a football club as historic and deeply-rooted as Ashington.
“We hope this donation will be welcomed by the home and visiting players of all ages and abilities, and of course we wish Ashington FC all the very best for the new season.”