Sunday 29 March 2015

Mayor of Barnet opens new football scheme at Grahame Park

I've known local football coach Paul Fitzgerald for some time. He used to run a training scheme for young footballers which my son attended. He was also a key figure in the Mill Hill Village Youth football training setup.

I was invited down to Grahame Park to see Pauls latest venture, the Academy of Football Specific Training. Like many people at the grassroots level in the community, Paul is not really one for the limelight, preferring just to get on with his job. So although he was keen for the Barnet Eye to get the word out about his scheme, he was too camera shy to give me an interview! We had a cup of tea and a chat about local football.

Paul has taken on the management of the Grahame Park community football pitch and is using it as his training hub. Until recently the pitch and the training rooms were semi derelict and vandalised.  During my visit I was pleased to bump into the Mayor of Barnet Hugh Rayner, who was down to see how the operation was getting off the ground. It turns out that Hugh knows Paul and is a big fan of his work. Hugh has helped Paul negotiate some of the hurdles and (after a bit of cajoling) gave me a short interview talking about the scheme.

Now we can all be a tad cynical at times, but I think this is an example of the Mayor doing a good job. People within the community such as Paul need all the help that they can get to negotiate the hurdles of dealing with the council, and it is clear that Hugh has been supportive. I've been critical in the past of the council for its poor record of protecting football pitches and other community facilities from developers. That Hugh has recognised the vital role such pitches and figures like Paul play is a very positive development and I sincerely hope that this signals a more general move towards protecting community assets.

So if you know of any young people in the area looking for football training, the full details can be found here -

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