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Club rises again

PUBLISHED: 12:20 15 January 2009 | UPDATED: 10:23 23 August 2010

CEREMONY: Sir Trevor Brooking with some of the young sports stars.

CEREMONY: Sir Trevor Brooking with some of the young sports stars.

A FOOTBALL legend has opened a community centre following a devastating fire nearly two years ago. Former West Ham and England star Sir Trevor Brooking, currently the Football Association s (FA s) director of football, officially opened the newly-built I

A FOOTBALL legend has opened a community centre following a devastating fire nearly two years ago.

Former West Ham and England star Sir Trevor Brooking, currently the Football Association's (FA's) director of football, officially opened the newly-built Istead Rise Community Centre on Monday.

The previous building in Worcester Close, Istead Rise, was gutted in a suspected arson attack in March 2007.

Pupils from nearby Istead Rise Primary School took part in an inter-house five-a-side football tournament, with the final match watched by grassroots football champion Sir Trevor as well as a host of dignitaries including Gravesham Borough Council leader Mike Snelling and Mayor Ken Jones and his wife Evelyn.

Sir Trevor, who presented medals to the boys and girls who took part in the matches, said: "The professional lads who play in the top leagues and for the national team all started out at local teams and that is just one reason why it's important that they have a got a place like this up and running again.

"Nowadays kids have their heads turned by computer games and other distractions and there isn't enough time spent practising sports. We need to have structured clubs like this and make sport enjoyable and accessible for youngsters of all levels.

"I know north Kent as an area has struggled at times in terms of facilities, but we have to give as many youngsters as possible the opportunity to play football and other sports. That's why a facility like this gives local youngsters the chance to play some football in a nice environment."

The total cost of the new building, which features security cameras linked to the council and shutters for windows and doors, came close to £1 million.

Although it has never been proved that arsonists were responsible for the fire, £2,000 was stolen from a safe on the premises by thieves on the same evening it occurred.

Centre chairman Patrick O'Connor praised everybody who had been involved in re-establishing the club, reserving a special commendation for Istead Rise Primary School and the Colts football club members.

He said: "It's been a real struggle over the past 18 months to get it up and running but we got there in the end.

"When it burned down it wasn't just a case of losing a bar, a whole community was destroyed. Elderly people played bowls here and there were other sports like badminton, as well as all the football teams. It was a big blow, and so getting someone like Sir Trevor to come down makes it a very special occasion."

Mayor Ken Jones, who played a big part in building the original centre, added: "I was shocked when the fire took place, and so after much fundraising to see this day is wonderful. It's good for the community to be able to take part in activities here and we look forward to a great future.

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