Blackburn Rovers Community Trust threw open the doors to Ewood Park this weekend, offering well over 800 players the chance to enjoy the experience of playing on the famous pitch.
Seventy different teams went head to head over a series of grassroots fixtures and tournaments, showcasing different forms of the game from small sided primary school age matches through to elite talent development fixtures and even walking football.
A wildly changing climate offered bright sunshine and steady weather in equal measure, but both the players and the surface beneath their feet stood up to the challenge over 22 solid hours of football over a two day period.
Making the weekend their own were local community club Clitheroe Wolves, who block-booked five hours of the time to allow virtually every junior age group within their ranks the chance to play at the stadium, before being rewarded with a further four hours of access for older teams to take on sides organised by the Community Trust.
Both our prospective BTEC in Sport players for the forthcoming 2017/18 season and a Blackburn with Darwen Teachers XI - made up of educational figures who have helped to deliver our Premier League Primary Stars programme this year - enjoyed the chance to test themselves against Clitheroe's top talent.
Alongside the grassroots teams, there was also a brace of welcome 'home wins' on the Saturday. A Blackburn Rovers 'A' team won the four-team walking football tournament on Saturday lunchtime that also featured Clitheroe WFC and Northgate Strollers, while players who have shown outstanding development on the Community Trust's Premier League Kicks programme were given chance to take on their Manchester City counterparts, turning in a fantastic team performance - high on skill and desire - to record a 3-1 victory.
Younger players on the Kicks programme were also treated to a change of scenery, as their weekly drop-in session at the Blackburn Rovers Indoor Centre was transferred outside to the pitch, to the delight of more than 50 young players who came along. Two top talent development sides also went head to head as the Warrington Schools FA took on the Tika Taka Football Academy in an under-15 contest.
Chris McGrail, head of BTEC and NCS at Blackburn Rovers Community Trust, was one of the integral figures in pulling the weekend's events together, and was understandably delighted by the outcome. He explained:
"A weekend of events on this scale takes a lot of planning and participation from a wide number of people to pull it all together, but we're really pleased with the way the extra effort was rewarded with the hundreds of happy faces we saw over Saturday and Sunday.
"Our local grassroots clubs responded in superb numbers to the offer to book places on the pitch for a potentially once-in-a-lifetime experience, and we saw so many children enjoying moments that they'll remember forever.
"A lot of credit has to go to the Community Trust staff who gave up their weekend to make it all happen, and to Trevor Wilkin and the ground staff at Ewood Park for producing such an excellent pitch that coped brilliantly with such huge footfall on both days."
On top of the 800-plus participation figure, an estimated 200 coaches and support staff with each team were joined by an aggregate crowd of around 1,200 over the two days, many of whom made voluntary donations to Blackburn Rovers Community Trust to help them with their ongoing charitable work for the benefit of our local population.
Two further full days of pitch access on Tuesday and Wednesday, coupled with two weekdays last week, means that the Community Trust are estimating that several thousands of players across all age groups will have enjoyed the chance to play at Ewood Park during this summer's run of special grassroots and charity events.
Photo galleries of all the events taking place at Ewood Park through the Community Trust over the current fortnight are available via their Facebook page.
The Community Trust would also like to thank McDonald's at Ewood for supporting the weekend's event by offering meals to their staff on both days of the action.