The Eddie McArdle Community Pitches in Kirkby were officially opened this morning by representatives from Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council, Liverpool FC and the McArdle and O’Leary families.
Work on the project started in July 2018 with improvements including five upgraded football pitches, new changing rooms and associated facilities including car parking for 110 vehicles, a new pedestrian and cycle pathway, lighting and improved security.
The new changing facilities include six separate team changing rooms, coaches’ changing rooms and a social room for team and community use. The community will also benefit from upgraded pitches, which will also be reconstructed with improved drainage.
The investment forms part of the LFC’s wider redevelopment which will see the club bring its football operations together on one site, and open world-class training facilities, including an elite performance centre for the first team and state-of-the-art training centre for its development squad teams.
As part of the project a new pavilion has been created and has been named in honour of amateur footballer John O’Leary. John was well known in the town and regarded as an extraordinary footballing talent.
Playing amateur league football in the 1960s and 1970s for Kirkby Town and Fantail (also based in Kirkby), John caught the attention of many professionals and was even referred to in Jackie Charlton’s autobiography as the greatest talent that he has ever seen outside of World Cup football.
Members of the McArdle and O’Leary families were invited to see the new facilities for themselves, along with representatives from Knowsley Council and Liverpool FC.
Andy Hughes, Liverpool FC's chief operating officer, said “We’re extremely pleased to be investing in the Knowsley area to provide improved sports facilities for the community of Kirkby.
“It is great to see the community facilities now completed. I look forward to better weather in the spring when we will be able to really see the pitches at their best and most importantly see the community using these great new facilities.
“Our new training facility is on track for completion in summer 2020 and will see the first team and youth football operations come together on one site for the first time in the club’s history.”
Cllr Graham Morgan, leader of Knowsley Council, commented: “It is great to see these new sporting facilities here in Kirkby and it seems only fitting that the name of another local footballing hero should be used to name the new pavilion.
“Football is such a big part of our community here in Knowsley and we are incredibly proud of the many talented footballers that have hailed from our borough.
“The Eddie McArdle name is synonymous with this site and the pitches have a place in the hearts of many local residents - many of whom have either played here or come along on a Sunday morning to watch their children and friends.
"I hope that many more will have the opportunity to use these facilities in the coming years and what an inspiration for our young people to have the Liverpool first team training just next door!”