Neville arrived at Scholes Bank Playing Fields in the town to see the result of the project, which was made possible thanks to a £738,807 grant from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund.
As an ambassador for the Football Foundation which delivers the fund, Neville previously visited the site in 2011 when the Horwich St Mary’s FC players had to get changed in rusty shipping containers.
Neville with Lesley Allon (Secretary, Horwich St Mary's), Tom Allon (Chairman, Horwich St Mary's), Rick Banks (Author), Paul Thorogood (CEO, Football Foundation) and Horwich St Mary's players
Now the club boasts a modern changing pavilion with four dual-gender changing rooms, two officials’ rooms, a multi-function suite, a kitchen, spectator toilets and a storage area.
“The new clubhouse at Scholes Bank is fantastic – a stunning improvement on the rusty shipping containers I saw here when I visited this site a few years ago,” said Neville.
“As The FA Chairman’s Commission recently stated, improving this country’s grassroots facilities is critical to success of the game.
“As an England coach I find it very encouraging to see the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund making a difference.”
With the pitches at Scholes Bank having suffered from poor drainage which often meant that matches had to be cancelled, the second phase of the project will see additional high quality natural grass pitches created on an adjacent area of agricultural grassland, with proper drainage that will ensure they are able to withstand the winter months.
And thanks to the stunning new site, Horwich St Mary’s is set to increase the number of its teams from 32 to 37 and the number of players from around 400 to more than 500 over the next five years.
An emphasis will be placed on widening participation to include girls’ and women’s teams and mini-Soccer teams will run at every age group from U6 upwards, and 11-a-side will then operate up to U18s with pathways provided to Horwich St Mary’s own senior men’s team.
“This facility will lead to more local youngsters taking up the sport, and it will be a venue for new coaches to become qualified,” added Neville.
“A healthy grassroots game is essential for the health of the game at every level and the Football Foundation is expert at targeting this investment into areas where it will have the biggest impact.
“The money the Foundation invests on behalf of the Fund’s partners – the Premier League, The FA and government – is transforming sites like this right across the country.
“Everyone who has contributed to this project, and especially the volunteers at Horwich St Mary’s, have achieved something really special for the community and for the game as a whole.”
Also present at the opening were Julie Hilling, MP for Bolton West, author Rick Banks and Football Foundation CEO, Paul Thorogood.
An additional £190,000 came from the Horwich St Mary’s Trust, which raised the money through fundraising events over the last six years. Author Rick Banks, who grew up in nearby Egerton, donated the entire £22,400 profits from the sales of his book ‘Football Type’, whilst former Bolton Wanderers FC captain, Kevin Davies, gave £20,000 to the club, through his Kids of Bolton charity. The pavilion also received £50,000 from Sport England’s Protecting Playing Fields Fund, which invests National Lottery money into improving community sports fields.