QPR striker Charlie Austin takes aim at West Berkshire Conservatives over Newbury football ground
Queens Park Rangers striker Charlie Austin has taken a shot at West Berkshire Conservative councillors for celebrating England's win while allowing Newbury football ground to "dwindle away on their doorstep".
The England men's team reached their first international final since 1966 after beating Denmark 2-1 in extra time at Wembley last night, setting up a Euros showdown with Italy on Sunday.
The West Berkshire Conservative Councillors Twitter account celebrated the win by tweeting "IT'S COMING HOME!!!!" to the England account.
QPR forward Mr Austin replied: "Shambles!!!!! Jump on the band wagon but look what you’ve aloud [sic] to happen to our local club!!!!"
Newbury's ground in Faraday Road was Newbury Football Club's home until it closed in 2018 to make way for the proposed London Road Industrial Estate (LRIE) redevelopment.
Newbury have played their home games at Brimpton and the council-owned Henwick Worthy playing fields in Thatcham over the last three years.
In that time the ground has sat empty and fallen into disrepair, including a fire breaking out on site, while masterplanning work to regenerate the estate takes place.
Mr Austin grew up in Hungerford and played for AFC Newbury under-14s before moving to Kintbury Rangers and Hungerford Town between 2006 and 2008.
Speaking to NewburyToday Mr Austin said the councillors tweet was shameful.
"It's a contradiction isn't it. A place like Newbury and how big it is and there's no football place for anybody and for three years now they've tried to say they're going to replicate what's going on and it's just not happened."
Mr Austin, who played at Faraday Road in his non-league days and for school teams, said: "It's so sad to see. You look at how football is galvanising the whole country at the moment and you look around Newbury and it's like, how can a place this size have nothing? It's ridiculous really.
"Newbury town ground was one of the best around here, including Hungerford, including Thatcham, it really was, and to see it just disappear... and for Newbury Conservatives to tweet that, yeah they've come out and got behind it, but to allow something on their doorstep to just dwindle away is just shameful really.
"It's such a shame to see the demoralising effect of what's happened. They locked the gates up three years ago and now look at the state of it. It looks worse now than what it did when it was open."
The Conservative-run council plans to demolish the dilapidated clubhouse, create 123 more car parking spaces and turn the ground into a recreational open space at a cost of £191,000, until development can begin to turn the site into flats.
Mr Austin said: "Victoria Park is just under the bridge so why would you just not have a nice football stadium there? People playing football there and galvanising the community again. All you've got at the moment is people vandalising the place."
Newbury Community Football Group has been campaigning to reopen the ground for football until a suitable replacement is built.
It has submitted its own plans for the ground, which include fencing off the clubhouse, dismantling other on site structures, installing temporary toilets and a spectator barrier, as well as full-size football goals.
Mr Austin said he supported the move, but also wanted somewhere for Newbury FC to call home.
He said: "Allow Newbury Community Football to run that place, put it back to how it was and allow the younger generation to build and play there in a safe environment.
"I don't know why they haven't just used them and their ideas and allowed them to take it on because it's such a shame that a place like Newbury has nowhere to play football."
The council is also planning to build a new floodlit stadium with an artificial grass pitch and a clubhouse at Newbury Rugby Club.
The council said it wanted to open the ground by next March, although no planning application has been submitted at this stage.
The ground will be a step 4 facility, above Newbury FC’s current requirement for a Step 7 ground and an improvement on the initial plans for a Step 6 facility.
Newbury FC had to resign from Step 5 in 2015 to play in a less financially demanding league.
Mr Austin said: "It will be a 4G or 3G thing but let's be honest, we need football pitches."
He asked when the new ground would be ready, how much it would cost to use and who would run the facility.
"Where's that money going? You don't mind if it's going into Newbury Football Club and into grassroots but I'm very unsure it's going to be like that."
With England facing Italy in the Euros final on Sunday Mr Austin said: "It's brilliant isn't it. It really is massive. It's galvanised the whole country and I think it's what we've all needed after the last 18 months. I just hope we can finally do it. It's the first time it's happened in my lifetime and it's an exciting time."