Football: Bradley Johnson thrilled to see how Hackney Marshes have improved nine years on from FA investment
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Derby County midfielder played on the Marshes when he was younger
June marks the ninth anniversary of the Football Association’s £1.9m investment in improving the football facilities at Hackney Marshes, and one current professional player says that has helped the local area no end.
Derby County midfielder Bradley Johnson was raised in Hackney and spent a lot of time growing up playing on the pitches at the famous Marshes.
And though the investment came after the now 31-year-old turned professional, he knows how much that money has helped the local community close to Hackney Marshes.
“I was last back in Hackney a year ago, I don’t get to go back as often as I’d like to, but I always make time for a trip to the Marshes, it brings back so many memories,” said the former Norwich City man.
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“The ninth anniversary of the £1.9m investment by the football authorities, including The FA, in the facilities at the Marshes is coming up and it’s thanks to that that the pitches I grew up on have continued to play a crucial role in the community with thousands of people playing there week in, week out.”
The 2009 investment saw the FA’s funding help renovate and improve facilities at the Marshes, including: 73 grass pitches (58 adult, 14 junior); three rugby pitches; three grass cricket pitches; five artificial cricket wickets; changing facilities for 20 teams; 26 modern changing rooms; dedicated officials’ rooms; three fully-equipped meeting and conference rooms; a large bar and function suite; and free parking.
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The investment will surely help talented youngsters of the future develop as they look to break into professional sport.
But for Johnson, who grew up on the Nightingale Estate in Hackney, there are still plenty of memories of the Marshes before the £1.9m investment nine years ago, with many focussed on the community feel they were able to generate.
“The thing I remember most about the Marshes was that it was the best place to make new friends,” he added.
“If me and my two friends went down, we would be invited to join in other groups, with no issues over which estate of area you were from.
“All we cared about was having a ball and enough people to play a decent game — football united us. Football actually united whole communities.”