A NEW junior football clubhouse has been given the seal of approval by former Middlesbrough and England boss Steve McClaren.

The Derby County manager, who still lives on Teesside, officially opened the £418,000 project at Cleveland Juniors in the town.

The project was supported by football charity Lionsraw with major funding from the Football Foundation and Sport England.

Their backing has seen the club’s facilities transformed, with a rusting storage container replaced by new changing rooms, showers, toilets and office facilities.

The charity has also helped to secure the club’s long-term future with a 25-year asset transfer lease of the team’s Mill Hill pitches in Acklam from Middlesbrough Council.

The scheme’s driving force has been Cleveland Juniors chairman, Michelle Rush, who says seeing the clubhouse become reality represents a dream come true for her late father and founding club chairman Frank Rush.

“Dad set up Cleveland Juniors in 1985 and it was his dream that the club would be the heart of this community, so seeing a facility like is a proud and emotional day for me,” she said.

“This project will help the club to grow and enable us to continue to offer our unique academy that gives free football coaching to allow underprivileged local children to benefit from top class coaching.”

Cutting the ribbon on the new facilities the former Mr McClaren said: "We would have died for facilities like this when we were kids and I think its just tremendous what all the partners have done to deliver it - I think it has been fantastic.

"What's impressed me the most about this project is the volunteers who come along on the Saturday and Sunday morning, they are the real heroes, the kids are the ones with the talent, but without good quality coaching there is no club."

Eaglescliffe-based Lionsraw has worked with the club as part of its first ever UK legacy project and help to seal a £268,000 grant from the Football Foundation, together with £50,000 from both Sport England’s Inspired Facility Fund and oil and gas company RWE Dea.

Lionsraw chief executive Jon Burns said: “Following our work at football tournaments away from home, it became apparent that we needed to deliver something in the UK. What better way than a project based in the heart of Middlesbrough, where Lionsraw was born? "Finally, we are able to create chances for change both at home and away.”