South Manchester Jewish football teams could rub shoulders with Manchester City stars of the future at a £1.5 million sports venue which opened in Cheadle this week.
The Henry Guterman Community Sports Centre provides a first central location for sports training and events for Jews in the area. It features five all-weather floodlit football pitches, two grass pitches and a netball and tennis court. A pavilion incorporates four changing rooms, a lounge area and a physiotherapy room.
Manchester City and League Two outfit Macclesfield Town have both approached the centre about using its facilities for academy coaching.
South Manchester Sports Club's 11 Jewish football teams moved to the venue on Wednesday. Cricket and table tennis teams will also use the newly developed three-and-a-quarter acre site. It is adjacent to North Cheshire Jewish Primary, whose pupils will have daytime use of the facilities.The centre will also be used by sportswear company Umbro, which donated £50,000 towards construction, and is also available to local sports teams.
It is named in memory of the communal and interfaith leader who died in 2007 and whose family made a significant financial contribution towards the project. Grants totalling £770,000 were received from the Football Foundation and Sport England and the site will be adminstered by Stockport Sports Trust. South Manchester Sports Club chairman Johnny Davis said the centre would bring sections of the wider community together, a fitting memorial to Mr Guterman's cohesion work. But he was critical of the bureaucratic hurdles which had delayed the project.
He praised vice-chairman Neil Collins for "giving 15 years of his life to do this. It's been an incredible battle, but if you stick with it you come out on top. We've had so many delays dealing with councils, organisations and the grant process with Sport England. "The government say they want more kids to do sports, but I have to tell them: 'You've got to make it a bit easier boys.' If they don't, it's not going to happen."
Club member and international Maccabi player Danny Schweiger believes the new facility will provide "the lifeblood for future sporting enjoyment for Jewish players to develop them to the peak of their abilities" The 39-year-old is also starting an under-six football team at the club.
David Tuck, 17, was among those using the centre for the first time on Wednesday.
"We used to be on a dodgy astroturf but the new pitches are fantastic," he said.