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Pitch Battle at Gamesley

March 8, 2010 4:59 PM
New Mills Football Pitch

Alistair Stevens with Colin Ramswell Chairman of New Mills Junior Football Club

A trophy-winning children's football club on one of the North West's most deprived housing estates may be forced to take the early bath unless it can find a new playing field.

Gamesley Villa, founded in 2002, which has 120 boys and girls in training each week, is about to lose its pitch because the local primary - which owns it - has decided to turn it into a community farm. The club needs a playing ground close to the estate, near Glossop, in High Peak, but all efforts to find a site have so far failed. No-one can find a home for the pioneering club even though it has won five cup finals, a sportsmanship award and taking the coveted Player of the Year trophy three times in the local Tame-side and District Junior League.

Club chairman Peter Aldred said the loss of the club would be a tragedy: 'The club is crucial in an area like this. There's so much potential for kids to go off the rails. To some of these children, Villa is all they've got.'

Mr Aldred says the club generates considerable community pride in an area of great deprivation and high unemployment. An 800-name petition has already been raised supported by the police and every local shop.

Now former Lancashire cricketer and Liberal Democrat prospective parliamentary candidate Alistair Stevens has joined the campaign. Mr Stevens, who has coached High Peak's junior cricketers for the past 17 years, has promised to lend his weight to help them find a new ground. He has already met with the management committee. Mr Stevens said: 'This is a fantastic club and it would be a tragedy for the estate if it were to close.'

'We went through the same process at New Mills and they now have a new playing field. If Villa identify a site, we'll find the funding.'

High Peak CVS, which supports and advises community and voluntary groups, has also pitched in to help. Liz Fletcher, an organiser from High Peak CVS, said she had never come across a more deserving case. 'They're doing a fantastic job in producing healthy, fit children, reducing childhood obesity, getting children off the streets and keeping them away from crime. They're a real role model.'

Although the Gamesley estate has been dubbed 'The Smoking Capital of the North', none of the children is allowed to smoke. Club chairman Peter Aldred added: 'It's a bigger incentive to play for the team than it is to smoke - so they don't!'