A TRANSFORMATION to the village sports ground where a youthful Sir Bobby Robson played football was given the green light by councillors yesterday.
Langley Park sports and social club near Durham has not changed much since the soccer legend began making a name for himself as a junior footballer during the austere years following the end of World War II.
The social club, changing rooms and cricket pavilion remain – but not for much longer.
For new owner Alan Cassidy intends to transform the ageing clubhouse into a modern leisure centre for the former mining community.
His plans include a new, larger clubhouse and cricket pavilion, changing rooms, and an all-weather five-a-side pitch.
The existing social club and changing rooms would be demolished.
Mr Cassidy said a larger, more comfortable social club would increase revenue which would be ploughed back into village sports facilities on the site.
Durham County Councillors approved the plans at a meeting yesterday.
Sir Bobby, the former Newcastle, Ipswich and England manager, who also played for his country, died after a long battle with cancer in July. He was born in Sacriston, but grew up in Langley Park and played football for the village team.
And Councillor Joe Armstrong, who represents the Esh ward on Durham County Council and who also grew up in Langley Park, said: “I remember as a nipper of five or six my father taking me to watch the juniors because they had a cracking side.
“My father would point out Bobby Robson because he really stood out.
“The sports centre is part of the history of the village. In 2005, the park next door was named The Sir Bobby Robson Park and, in June last year, Sir Bobby started a walk from the sports club that raised £12,000 for his foundation that raises money to help cancer sufferers in the North East.”
The sports club is shared by Langley Park cricket club, the bowls club and junior football teams.
Coun Armstrong said the junior steams, aged from four to seven and seven to 11, were carrying on the proud footballing tradition in Langley Park.
Work is expected to be completed by March 2011.
Mr Cassidy said: “I feel we need to bring the sports and social club into the 21st Century and this will be a real asset to the village.
“It is a good, safe environment for children, and people will have a clubhouse they are proud of.”
Councillors unanimously approved the application which Coun Armstrong described as a “boon for the area,” which should help to combat childhood obesity.