Nottingham Forest star Joe Worrall blasts council decision to 'evict' boyhood team Hucknall Sports from their home
Nottingham Forest star Joe Worrall, who started his journey with Hucknall Sports, has slammed a controversial decision by Ashfield District Council to stop his boyhood club from using their long-standing home pitches.
Reds defender Worrall is from Hucknall and started his footballing obsession with the junior club which, until this week, played at the playing fields off Kenbrook Road – and before that the forerunner of the site, Wigwam Lane Playing Fields.
The Forest man, who refers to himself as ‘former Hucknall Sports number 5’, has labelled the decision ‘short-sighted’ and has accused the council of ‘depriving the town’s kids of the opportunity to play football’.
This week, the club, which has been going for 44 years, started a petition demanding the council reverse its decision.
The move comes in the aftermath of a planning bid to build a 3G pitch on the fields – and the council’s hope to enter into a management agreement for the site with the applicants behind the plan, Sports Gateway.
In an open letter to the council, which Worrall has shared with his thousands of social media followers, he writes:
“Those that know me know that I’m not a politically-minded man. In fact all I really know is football and that had to start somewhere.
“As it happened, it started on Wigwam Lane Playing Fields in Hucknall under the safe, watchful eye of my volunteer manager at Hucknall Sports Junior FC.
"This is a story that is echoed, in principle, by pretty much every pro English footballer up and down this country. Grassroots is where it all begins.
“You can imagine therefore my disgust when I heard about the Ashfield District Council’s plan to evict Hucknall Sports (Community Football Club) from their home on Papplewick Green; a site that they’ve occupied for over 40 years (in various guises) in order to accommodate a private, profit making company on their site.
“Many will ask, particularly in the hype of the Euros, “Where the next Harry Kane or Raheem Sterling will come from if we don’t protect our kids playing fields and football clubs?” It’s a fair question, but for me it’s a secondary one!
“What really matters is the 99.99% of kids that will never be a professional footballer. For them, grassroots football isn’t a potential career path; it’s far more important than that. It’s where kids don’t have a phone in their hand or an iPad on their knee. Where there’s no WiFi and no PlayStation.
"It’s where they learn what being part of a team is all about, they learn to stay fit and healthy, they learn of accountability, how to win and lose graciously, how to dust themselves off and go again when things go wrong, how to support one another when it hits the fan. It’s not just the kids; a grass roots football club is where the lonely single parent makes new friends and gets support, it’s where the manager loves his lads or girls so much that they’ll postpone his/her holiday as to not miss a game, it’s where no matter how much life has thrown at you in the week, you can come, forget it all and cheer for something bigger than yourself for an hour or so.
"A grassroots football club, just like Hucknall Sports is the very heartbeat of a community. Let’s forget the emotional attachment for a moment though. I grew up in these parts, I went to school here, I played football here and I know this town. I know that, like any other ex-mining community or suburb, anti-social behaviour is rife among young people, in most cases, not because they’re bad kids, simply because there’s nothing for them to do.
“I am then baffled why a council, led by Ashfield Independents, an organisation allegedly with a sole purpose of making decisions in the interest of the community it serves, would think it’s a good idea or indeed even consider this for a community football club, run solely by incredible volunteers, that has served over 6,000 children in this town, at no expense to them or the taxpayer, from its rightful home of in excess of 40 years.
"I’m no genius but I know that to provide youth services that are equivalent to what Hucknall Sports provide would cost them tenfold any income that they may derive from the development of the site or whatever they plan to do to it.”
He adds: This decision is short sighted, naive and above all depriving this town’s kids of the opportunity to play football and be part of something that only grass roots clubs can provide.
“It’s bonkers, but it seems that as footballers in the modern era, we do have a voice and I believe that sometimes it’s right that we speak out against injustice and nonsense when we see it, whatever form it takes. We’ve seen the incredible efforts that Marcus Rashford has gone to to hold politicians to account for their decisions and actions and whilst this isn’t on that scale, I hope that I can use what profile I have to firstly encourage anyone who reads this and agrees with my points to stand up and be counted right now before it’s too late.
"Sign petitions, object to the panning application, email the council, chain yourself to the goal posts if you have to but don’t let this happen.
“Secondly, for those that have influence within the council to search your conscience. It’s public land that belongs to the community, not a private company. Just do the right
thing. It’s as simple as that. You got it wrong, put your hands up and fix it.
“Ashfield Council, if this stands, the inevitable fallout will be on you. This isn’t about politics. It’s about the community that you were elected to protect and be an advocate
for. Please do the right thing!
“On behalf of hundreds of kids, parents, grandparents and future generations...”