Football: Eagles on a high after receiving £700,000 towards cost of new home
JUNIOR football club Eccleshall Eagles are finally set to have a home to call their own after 12 years spreading their wings.
It would need a 45-mile round trip to take in each of their 12 teams' games each weekend, with matches held from Stafford and Gnosall to Woodseaves and Stone and beyond.
The club, who have more than 180 players aged from six to 18, have even had to shift grazing cows just to find a place to play.
But now Eccleshall have been awarded grants totalling £700,000 to build a new place to call their own, including a £448,967 cheque from the Football Foundation.
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It means a site at Drake Hall can be transformed into three fully-drained pitches with a new clubhouse added in for good measure.
"It has taken us six years to get this far, but it is absolutely fantastic news," said club liaison officer Jeremy Pert.
"We play on eight different sites at the moment and we've never had a central base. We are more like disparate teams than a single club.
"Sometimes we have played on fields with ruts from tractors all over them and it's not great trying to move cows on before a training session. They can go from dust bowls one week to mud baths the next depending on the weather.
"It is very exciting for me and the coaches, and a brilliant time for the young footballers who come to our club."
The Eagles were formed in 2001 and have added a new side every year since then. A girls' team is the latest addition.
They have received a £50,000 grant from Sport England's Olympic Legacy pot, £5,000 from Lloyds Banking Community Fund and further help from the Staffordshire Environmental Fund and the County Council.
Pert, aged 45, whose 14-year-old son Ben plays for the Eagles, added: "Work has already started, and it is amazing to see something we have worked so long for come together.
"Just across town the cricket club is putting up a new pavilion, so it's great to see so much inward investment in sport in Eccleshall."
The new site should be up and running in time for the start of the 2014 season
Players, parents and coaches have been fund-raising to help pay for the project, but chairman Jon Busfield admitted: "Without all of the support we have had we would never have been able to create new pitches or a clubhouse.
"The club has some great development plans, including extending our new girls' section as well as developing better coaching.
"We are really looking forward to our first competitive season at our new ground. It will be like playing in a cup final every weekend."
Football Foundation chief executive Paul Thorogood praised the club for their ambition to bring new quality facilities to the village.
He said: "This will be an asset to the community for many years to come.
"Eccleshall Eagles have worked tirelessly in partnership with Staffordshire FA to reach this stage and deserve great credit for their efforts."