FORMER England manager Steve McClaren was in Darlington yesterday to give schoolchildren the perfect warm-up for this summer’s World Cup.

McClaren, the Derby County boss, officially launched the King’s Church Football Academy in the town by putting on a coaching session for budding footballers aged between five and 11.

After putting the youngsters through their paces at the Whessoe Road facility, the 53-year-old answered questions before handing out medals and signed certificates to those who took part. He is a long term friend of King’s Church pastor Phil Hillsdon.

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“There were a few suspect football shirts out there, but it was superb and there was plenty of ability out there to see,” said McClaren, who led England for 18 months after leaving Middlesbrough in the summer of 2006.

“I’ve known the pastor, leader of the church, here for a number of years. He told me about his vision for the church and has provided a great facility for the community in Darlington. There’s nothing better he could have done than produce this sports facility.

“The King’s Church Academy is trying to link up with Darlington and Middlesbrough Football Clubs, so the kids in the area can come along and enjoy themselves.

“It’s a tremendous facility and is trying to serve the community in this area. For this to be on everybody’s doorstep, and parents know their children can come and be safe, that’s great.”

Children have spent the last two days playing at the King’s Sports site for just £2.50 a day which included a bite to eat and the plan is to sustain that interest and increase numbers over the longer term.

Mikey Coltman, manager of the King’s Sports facility, said: “The King’s Centre is run by a church. We needed a new hall and we decided we also wanted it to be a sports facility. During the week there’s table tennis and badminton, but what we really want to work on is a football academy.

“We are all FA coaches here. We are looking to move on to every night. Steve has helped us out here, where this place is packed every day of the week with the cafe and mother and toddler groups. It was great to have Steve here to put on a session for us.”