FORMER England and Saints striker James Beattie paid a visit to a Dorset secondary school to support grassroots football.

Last year The Blandford School installed a top-notch artificial pitch thanks to a grant from the Football Foundation.

Beattie was fulfilling his first engagement as an ambassador for the foundation when he met pupils and staff and viewed the facilities.

The school received £350,000 from the premier League and the FA Facilities Fund, delivered by the Football Foundation, to develop the pitch.

It measures 106m x 70m and is a floodlit, third generation artificial grass pitch.

"A keen supporter of the grassroots game, James has seen first-hand through the course of his career the importance of high-quality facilities" said a spokesman for the school.

"Every week more than 1,000 footballers use the pitch, which ensures that pupils at the school and sportspeople from the wider community can enjoy football in a state-of-the-art environment."

Staff member Lisa Kiff said around 700 pupils crowded on to the pitch to catch a glimpse of Beattie.

"He watched some of the students do some football training, looked at their coaching skills and had a chat with them" she added.

"He then agreed to take part in a question and answer session which the students really enjoyed."

She said the pitch was officially opened in March and has since been used by a selection of both professional and amateur organisations.

Beattie made more than 200 appearances for Southampton and played five times for England. He has recently been appointed as a first-team coach at Swansea City.

The Football Foundation was founded in 2000 and is the largest sports charity in the UK.

Since its launch it has awarded around 13,000 grants worth more than £524 million towards improving grassroots sport.