THE head of the country’s Football Association has opened newly refurbished pitches in Hampshire, which will allow a club to move “back home”.

Martin Glenn made a rare appearance in the county last weekend after the Hampshire FA, Test Valley Borough Council, and MP Caroline Nokes helped to get new drainage installed at Valley Park’s Knightwood Leisure Centre.

The group also headed to Mountbatten School to see the artificial pitch which was installed a few years ago.

However, their appearance at Knightwood also marked a homecoming for one football club that was forced to play its home games almost 10 miles away.

St Francis Youth Football Club’s 22 boys and girls sides had to pack up and move to Hunts Farm, near Romsey, because the waterlogged pitches at Knightwood became such an issue three years ago.

However, cancelled matches should now be a thing of the past following the installation of the new upgraded kit.

Paul Davies, chair of the club, said: “It takes us back to our home. The youth football club has been playing at Knightswood since 1994, but for the last three years or so we haven’t been able to play any football there as the pitches became unplayable.

“But now, with the ability to move back there, it helps us to become a local club again, especially as around 95% of the children that play live within two miles of the pitch. Hopefully this will also mean we can attract more kids to come and play for the team.”

Test Valley Borough Council, which put £50,000 towards the project, welcomed the upgrades. Leisure chief, councillor Tony Ward said: “It’s wonderful that the new Knightwood Leisure Centre pitches are ready for the community to enjoy in the new year.

“The centre has undergone a number of refurbishments over the past few years such as the addition of outdoor fitness equipment, a skate park and now path improvements.

“These pitches, which will be managed by Places Leisure in partnership with the council, are just the latest addition.”

“The council is also grateful for the support from the Football Association, Sport England and the Football Foundation. This project is something that we’re all very proud of.”

MP for Romsey and Southampton North Caroline Nokes, said she was “delighted to have been able to help St Francis Football Club”.