Premier League Hall of Fame inductee and Arsenal legend Ian Wright last week opened the “Rocky & Wrighty Arena” at his former primary school, Turnham Academy, in southeast London that was funded by the Premier League, The FA and Government’s Football Foundation and EA SPORTS.
The small-sided 3G football turf pitch is overlooked by the estate Wright and David "Rocky" Rocastle grew up on. The pair honed their football skills on the former concrete pitches at the school before going on to play alongside each other for Arsenal.
Wright was joined by members of Rocastle’s family as well as Chelsea Women’s manager Emma Hayes to open the pitch, which features a mural dedicated to the friends and former team-mates designed by local artist, Lionel Stanhope.
“Seeing this pitch open and looking so good makes me really proud,” Wright said. “It’s going to make such a difference to so many kids in the area I grew up in.”
Rocastle’s life was tragically cut short in 2001 at the age of 33 by non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
“For me, it’s more than a pitch, it’s a tribute to my dear friend, David Rocastle, which I hope will inspire more young people to fall in love with football,” Wright added.
“We used to spend hours kicking a ball about and now these kids have a proper pitch to play on. It’s so exciting for them!”
The floodlit all-weather facilities will be game-changing for children at the school and people in the wider community, who will have access to a quality, safe and inclusive place to play all-year round. As well as being used by Turnham Academy, Millwall Community Trust will use the space outside of school hours to run Premier League Kicks, walking football for adults, Wildcats, Millwall Lionesses’ and Millwall Roman LGBTQ+ sessions.
Local club Hillyfielders FC will also be using the pitch for their training sessions throughout the week.
“I’m immensely grateful to the Football Foundation, its funding partners and EA SPORTS for making this happen, and for providing a safe space for the local community to come together and play the game that changed my life,” Wright said. “Everyone deserves the opportunity to reach their potential, and this pitch will give kids from Turnham Academy and the local area, the space to do that.”
Nick Perchard, the Premier League’s Head of Community said: “Inner cities like this one don’t have enough places to play. We need safe spaces where people can come, enjoy sport and get into it for the first time.
“Hopefully, if we can get as many young people in the local area playing, they’ll go on to have a lifelong love of sport and participate in a whole manner of different things and some of them will go on to be the next Dave Rocastle and Ian Wright as well.”
Through the Football Foundation, the Premier League, The FA, DCMS and Sport England have come together to create "Local Football Facility Plans" for every area in England.
These plans identify priority projects where demand is greatest, and the impact will be strongest. They will guide work and stimulate the action required to deliver them over the next 10 years to transform many more local facilities.
Over the last two years the Football Foundation has helped to create 318 Local Football Facility Plans unlock the power of pitches for every community in England.