Martyn Lancaster has played professional soccer for over 15 years in Europe and in the United States.
He now hopes to use some of his experience to help develop young soccer players in his hometown of Cartersville as he is opening the Legends Sports Center Monday on Highway 20.
The sports center will have a 200-by-100-foot artificial playing surface which can be used for various sports.
Based out of the facility will be the Georgia Knights youth soccer club.
“The process started about a year ago. I was looking for a little piece of property in Cartersville just to train some kids and maybe look to open a youth soccer club,” Lancaster said. “The main goal of the Legends Sports Center is to give people a fun place to be. The Georgia Knights is a way for me to get into coaching. It’s a way for me to give back to the game. I feel like Cartersville needs a good youth soccer program, so hopefully, I can provide that.”
Lancaster currently plays for the Atlanta Silverbacks of the North American Soccer League and has been living in the United States for seven years.
“Playing is the ultimate. Coaching is second best. So coaching is something I’m going to fall into,” Lancaster said. “This will be a good transition into it and also a good way just to provide a place where people can have fun.”
Lancaster played over 100 games in five seasons for Chester City of the English Football League and Football Conference. He signed with the Atlanta Silverbacks in 2007 and is currently the captain.
“I want to pass my knowledge on to the kids,” he said. “I want to give back to the sport that I’ve played all my life and this is an opportunity for me to do that.”
One goal of the Legends Sports Center is to raise the interest level of soccer in the area.
“I want to grow the soccer game. I want to give Bartow County something to be proud and put it on the map in the world of soccer,” Lancaster said. “Usually, the bigger, faster, better athletes go into football. If we can convince some of those players to go into soccer that would be wonderful.”
Lancaster is originally from a small town near Wigan, England. Soccer and love took him to Cartersville.
“It was a love story. I came here for a summer camp. My wife is from [Cartersville]. It was kind of a love at first sight thing. I called my coach back in England. I told him I wasn’t coming back and he was mad. And my family was mad because I was giving up something that I worked so hard for,” he said.
Lancaster did find a way to keep playing professional soccer, however.
“Luckily, when I stayed over here, I called the manager of the Wilmington Hammerheads who was also from England and I knew him,” Lancaster said. “He told me to come and play for them so I stayed in the game.”