FOOTBALL Association chairman Greg Clarke handed over one of his prized possessions to Ascot United, saying: “You deserve it more than I do,” writes Dave Wright.

It was an England No. 6 shirt signed by Harry Maguire following their World Cup semi-final defeat by Croatia in Russia last year.

To loud applause, Clarke made the presentation when officially opening the 3G pitch at the Racecourse Ground last Thursday.

Explaining how he got the shirt, he said: “I was fortunate enough to go to Russia for the World Cup and the (England) team said they would like to give a gift to those who came with them for the whole trip.

“So I got a shirt which was embroidered with Croatia and the date of the game signed by my favourite player of the tournament Harry Maguire.

“As a personal gift, I would now like to give it to the club. You deserve it more than I do.”

Clarke, who resides in Virginia Water, added: “I have lived in this area for 25 years and Ascot United have always been at the heart of the community, bringing kids together not just to learn football, but also gain social skills and confidence, and grow up to be decent adults.

“Coming to clubs like this is one of the best parts of my job.”

The FA chairman was joined by the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead’s Deputy Mayor Gary Muir, along with representatives of those responsible for providing the substantial funding, which included the Premier League and the Football Foundation, as well as those involved in the whole project, right from the planning stages through to the completion of the pitch.

Harrison also acknowledged the assistance of Simon Wood who “got us through mountains of paperwork – as he did when this clubhouse was constructed 10 years ago.”

Last week’s function was also attended by officials from the Berks & Bucks FA, Combined Counties League and Surrey Youth League.

During the evening, much praise was heaped on Ascot chairman Mike Harrison and his fellow directors for all their tremendous work in seeing the new pitch brought to fruition.

The guests were told the directors “did not shy away from difficult financial and operational decisions” while Harrison thanked all those club members for “putting up with me and allowing me to lead this fantastic football club.”

He also expressed his gratitude to the officials of Ascot Racecourse for their assistance and support.

On the field, Ascot United produced a devastating display to see off Abbey Rangers 7-0 their Buildbase FA Vase second round tie on Tuesday evening, booking a date at Corinthian FC in the process.

Apart from a middle section of the first half when Abbey Rangers tried to force their way into the game, Ascot were totally dominant and could have been five-nil up before the break.

Ben Hodges somehow fired wide in their first attack, but Jonny Denton opened the scoring in the 11th minute with a left-footed effort which took a faint deflection as it flew past Cameron Kennedy in the visitors’ goal.

That goal had owed much to the strength and subsequent lay-off from Ian Davies, who would find the net himself three minutes later after Kennedy had errantly palmed James Haworth’s deep, swirling cross onto his own crossbar; Davies on hand to volley home the rebound.

Davies should have made it three when he scuffed a shot on the turn with Rangers at sixes and sevens, but would later slide home his second and Ascot’s third after Luqman Kassim had drilled a perfect cross across the penalty area.

Rangers’ Charlie Postance wasted the chance to cut the deficit when he volleyed over after chesting the ball down for himself in acres of space four minutes before the break, but Ascot should have been awarded a penalty on the stroke of half time only for an inexplicable offside flag to deny them after Kennedy had superbly saved Harry Laflin’s free-kick and Davies was chopped down as he went to convert the loose ball.

The second half was probably as good as it could have got for Ascot, and surely the worst of the very worst for Abbey Rangers, who would end with ten men.

There were simply waves after waves of attack from the hosts. Davies was cleaned out in the penalty area once again with more penalty appeals waves away, Laflin rifled home number four after George Lock had thumped the ball back into is path – and Laflin – despite playing in defence, might have had a late second had his injury-time spot kick not been saved.

Kassim was a constant menace – firing over, seeing another shot tipped over, and even finding the inside of a post after bamboozling his marker – although Hodges would convert the rebound on that occasion. That goal made it 6-0 in the 77th minute, but just before Davies had completed his hat-trick with a sublime finish into the top left to make it 5-0 after Kassim and Lalustani had combined to devastating effect in the build-up.

Postance headed wide of a gaping target in a rare attack for the visitors, but as Ascot purred, they even introduced sixteen-year old youth player Sam Evans.

Fellow substitute Jon Bennett’s control and touch released Kassim for what looked another goal, only for him to fire wide, before Abbey Rangers’ calamitous evening ended when Jamie Hoppitt somehow hand-balled Laflin’s free kick with no-one around him – Kennedy saved the spot-kick, but Aiden Higgs buried the rebound for number seven as Kennedy fouled and was dismissed.