THE Cheshire FA has received the blessing of head office for its new £650,000 base.
Though its own offices, meeting rooms and the county football development centre have been operational since the spring, it is only recently that a suitable date in every-one's 'fixture' list could be pencilled in.
The building is at the Moss Farm recreation centre in Northwich, a goal kick away from the cramped former farm cottage rooms the Cheshire FA had previously occupied.
Former Alex star Mark Palios, now the FA's chief executive, joined chairman Geoff Thompson to unveil a plaque and commend Cheshire for its footballing achievements of the past.
'But this building is about the future. It is an exciting time to be involved in football,' said Thompson.
Cheshire president Alan Burbidge mentioned Palios had 'a few other things on his mind', but the former Gresty Road favourite did seem relaxed back on his old stamping ground and away from any mention of Rio Ferdinand.
'I was keen to come. I love this area and have some great memories,' he said.
'Cheshire FA has a fabulous facility and it is a classic example of an organisation helping itself.
'They do a tremendous job at grassroots.
'Perhaps we have not told people what we do well enough.
'For the professional game to thrive, there has to be high participation in football throughout the country and there is in Cheshire.'
Thompson said Cheshire had done a remarkable job in football development.
'Here, they can provide opportunities and improve skills and coaching. The role of the counties is to control the game, but also promote it, though players don't always realise that.'
Burbidge introduced the special guests and listed Cheshire as one of the oldest associations (only three were affiliated earlier).
'This year is our 125th anniversary, but we have not had time to celebrate it yet.
'More than 25 years ago, we visited Sheffield FA and saw their headquarters and decided we needed one.
'We thought this day would never come. This is our big moment.'
The building, named Hartford House, was funded by the Cheshire and English FAs and the Football Foundation, whose chief executive Peter Lee also attended the ceremony.
The first purpose-built centre in the country, there is a multi-purpose conference suite to seat 120 people, various offices, dressing rooms for adults, children and referees and a parents' waiting room.
Maureen Dunford, Cheshire's chief executive, said: 'The future of football in Cheshire depends on us providing players, officials and everyone connected with the game with the facilities they deserve.
'We will lead the way in encouraging more people to play football and in raising standards.'
Cheshire is also breaking new ground in the appointment of a referees' development officer, David Moyles.