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Millwall legend and Cristiano Ronaldo’s marker in 2004 FA Cup final condemns closure of Crystal Palace diving pool

The Millwall legend who marked Manchester United superstar Cristiano Ronaldo in the 2004 FA Cup final has slammed the poor state of a high-profile diving pool.

Robbie Ryan who played 258 games for the Lions over one of their most successful periods, says his daughter Brooke has been left high and dry by the closure of the baths at Crystal Palace’s National Sport Centre.

The 44-year old former left back, who works cleaning Tube tunnels overnight, has been driving his 16-year old daughter all over the South-east so she can continue to train at her beloved Sport.

Robbie said: “She enjoyed going there when it was open. She’s done good work while she’s been able to use it.

“She works hard at it and the social aspect is important because she’s made a lot of friends there – but now they are all having to go to different clubs.

“It’s become harder for her if she wants to carry on diving. I know what it must be like. We both enjoy sport. It’s massive for me if I can’t get to the gym. It puts me in a bad mood. You can see the emotion in her face when she doesn’t get to go.

“She has made a lot of sacrifices to keep diving – for example her friends went to the Reading Festival, while she wants to keep active and fit and mentally healthy.

“She is doing PE and psychology for her A Levels and loves sport. I’m lucky that she’s going down the right road. So for this to be happening is devastating.

“If you stick at something like that you progress – but training has stopped and they took the water out. The main pool has problems but I’m not sure why they haven’t opened the diving pool because I don’t think that’s affected.”

Brooke has been using Crystal Palace for more than five years, after being picked in a try-out session at her school, Holy Innocent in Orpington.

Robbie added: “It is very sad the state that the centre has got into. When I was 10, being brought up in Ireland, I heard of the National Sports Centre and saw it on TV.

“When she got picked to join the diving team at Crystal Palace from her school I knew it was a great venue. But when I went there it looked so rundown.”

Broke was at training sessions on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays at Crystal Palace.

She is now having to do her weekday training on zoom classes using a dry gym – diving boards are suspended above mats.

Her dad drives her 20 miles to Tunbridge Wells on a Saturday and for 90 minutes to Southend, 40 miles away, for a 10-metre diving board on Sundays. Other members of the club have to make a two-hour drive of 90 miles to Southampton.

Ryan said: “She comes home every Sunday afternoon and falls asleep about 2 p.m. It must be exhausting, all that travelling.

“I understand there’s not as much money as there was before the London Olympics and as a sport, it is far less rich than football or rugby. But it is a massive part of her life and she does not know what will happen now.”

The club’s two Olympic Games competitors or able to train at Stratford’s Olympic Pool, but there is not enough room for other divers.

A spokesman for The Mayor of London said: “While the Mayor appreciates the frustration of all those who would love to be using the Crystal Palace pools during this Olympic summer, safety must always come first and unfortunately survey work carried out over the last 18 months has identified a number of issues with the pool that require attention.

“The Mayor remains committed to securing a sustainable future for the centre, which is an important sporting and community facility for the capital.

“Further assessment work is now being carried out to allow plans to be drawn up for the future of the site.”

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