Sir Geoff Hurst visits footballing youngsters

This Is Wiltshire: Sir Geoff at Highworth on Saturday Sir Geoff at Highworth on Saturday

A WORLD Cup winner oversaw training at Highworth Town Juniors on Saturday, but most people at The Elms had no idea who Sir Geoff Hurst was.

England’s most famous hat-trick hero, as McDonald’s director of football, was launching the 2014 FA Community Awards with a visit to last year’s winners of the South West FA Community Club of the Year gong.

An inspiration to many he meets, Sir Geoff had to overcome a gaping age difference in his audience, many of whom were born more than 30 years after his Wembley exploits in 1966.

The junior side of Highworth Town is made up of 27 teams from age four to 18, with more than 400 footballers out in force across the pitches at The Elms on Saturday.

The facility was bathed in sunshine as Sir Geoff made his way around the pitches, assessing the talent on show at the community-driven club, before fielding questions in front of the clubhouse.

“Everybody has been looking forward to this for the past few weeks. It’s been an exciting experience for everyone involved,” said club chairman Mark Collett.

“The aim for today was for Sir Geoff to see as many teams out there as possible this morning.

“I doubt many of the children fully understood because he’s from an older generation, unfortunately.

“One of the things we would like the FA to look into is getting current players involved. It wouldn’t hurt for players to spend a weekend, once in a while, when they’re injured, to help some of the clubs progress.”

In his role at McDonald’s, whose local franchisee Paul Booth organised Saturday’s visit, Sir Geoff visits many clubs across the country and has a firm hold on grassroots football across the UK.

He said his hope would be to inspire parents and grandparents, if not the younger players, although one child impressed him with their research skills ahead of his visit.

“The key thing about last year’s award and this visit is that it recognises they are good at what they do,” said the 72-year-old.

“At a younger age the most important thing is getting them to enjoy their football and improve their skills, because it can become too competitive. If I can’t inspire the kids, maybe I can inspire the parents or the grandparents, who can remember me.

“One kid did come up to me and say he had looked me up on YouTube – he can’t have been more than six. That shows they can be inspired if they are told the stories.

“There are many great stories which can be told of England winning it (the World Cup) and it can inspire them.”

Nominations for the FA Community Awards presented by McDonald’s are now open. To vote for a football volunteer, club or league, go to www.mcdonalds.co.uk/awards

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