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19 Feb 2018 : Redeveloped Runcorn Linnets HQ "a real hub for community football"

Runcorn Linnets have been applauded for transforming The Millbank Linnets Stadium and surrounding pitches into a splendid community football facility for present and future generations.

More than 600 fans attended Saturday's ground-breaking Halton derby match, which not only saw the first-time visit of Widnes FC but the official unveiling of Linnets' impressive ground improvements.

This saw the official opening of a 1.4m purpose-built clubhouse, home to the club's 400-plus senior men's, ladies and junior players.

A 2-0 defeat, the maiden home reversal of The Hallmark Security League Premier Division season for the top-of-the-table Linnets, failed to dampen the spirits or sense of achievement in the ranks.

Also on show to an array of guests - including civic dignatories, local members of Parliament, Mike Amesbury (Weaver Vale) and Halton's Derek Twigg, club sponsors (including main sponsor, Runcorn-based specialist recruitment company Millbank Holdings), FA officials and funding agencies - was a new site boundary fence at Halton Sports playing fields.

This means that the club's junior pitches, surrounding the main stadium, are completely enclosed for security and safety.

Mr Amesbury, the club's constituency MP, said: "It was a genuine honour and a pleasure not only to be at the match along with the Mayor of Halton and good colleague Derek (Twigg), but to be asked to lead the Linnets out too.

"The new club house facilities are fantastic and the passion of everyone involved in the club to get it this far is a credit to them.

"What's great about this is that it's not just the first team that'll get to use these facilities but youth teams too, making this a real community hub.

"It was a shame about the result, but the game was played in really good spirits and I'm absolutely certain Linnets will be celebrating a great many victories."

The new clubhouse was funded by Halton Borough Council through the sale of land - including the Linnets' former dressing rooms, offices and function room - to make way for an Aldi supermarket, pub restaurant and other retail premises off Murdishaw Avenue.

The new facilities also include a replacement car park.

The 57,500 boundary fence scheme was meanwhile facilitated by a 32,500 grant from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund and a 15,000 Area Forum grant.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony was performed by the borough's Mayor, Councillor Alan Lowe, accompanied by the Mayoress Mrs Joan Lowe.

Mr Lowe said he had enjoyed the occasion, adding on twitter: "It was lovely to meet so many people from the local community showing their support."

In his welcoming speech, club chairman Mark Buckley gave a brief history of Runcorn Linnets Football Club - how the club was formed in 2006, the early years playing in Northwich as tenants of Witton Albion, the Return to Runcorn campaign (successfully completed in 2010) and amalgamations with Inter Union Junior FC and Runcorn Ladies.

He thanked Millbank and explained how the club is seeking to enhance the long-standing sponsorship deal as they look ahead to an even brighter future.

Mr Buckley lauded the club's volunteers and fans and concluded by saying it was fitting that Widnes were the day's opponents, with their chairman Ian Ross being such a massive benefactor of grassroots football at many levels.

Mr Ross, also managing director of North West Counties League's title sponsors, Widnes-based Hallmark Security, tweeted that the welcome and hospitality shown by the Linnets to all involved with Widnes FC had been 'fantastic'.

He added: "I'd like to congratulate all at Runcorn Linnets on their fantastic new facility, fit for generations of teams to come through. The turnout of kids at the stadium was a joy to see."

Curtain raisers to the senior men's game were matches involving a selection of junior teams from Runcorn Linnets and Widnes FC.

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