It is a pleasure to be asked to join the Torbay Weekly. This will be a completely new experience for me, and hopefully you will enjoy the column.
Having become the Head of the Chelsea Foundation Football/ Education programme at South Dartmoor Community College at Ashburton in 2014 the experience was challenging at times enjoyable and rewarding in many different ways. Mixing a football programme with an education curriculum for the first time was a different experience for me.
Introducing football into their daily routine created a more rounded education and taught the students other skills and disciplines required to help them understand what is needed to give them a better opportunity of being successful in life
The football programme/schedule was in line with a professional football club and the students soon understood that training was of a very high standard and not just another PE lesson. It required full concentration, dedication and a skill to listen to learn
It was decided to enter the Nation College League (South) playing against college teams associated with other Football League clubs.
Our first season was tough but a good learning curve. It was not easy playing in an U19 League with a team made up of mostly U17 players, finishing our first season just below mid table was disappointing, but it taught the players/student what skills and disciplines were needed to at the very top.
The second season was a different story finishing second just three points (one win) away from winning the league We reached the quarter final of the National League Cup eventually losing to Liverpool 5-4, the game was played at Liverpool’s Academy ( a great experience for the players/students). We also had a player/student from Torquay, Cianan Breen, playing and captaining the England College team.
My biggest success story is about a local lad (student) who was going nowhere in life. In fact, he probably had no future. When he joined the football education programme, I thought this would be our biggest challenge and didn’t expect him to last more than a week or two.
He turned out to be, in my opinion, our biggest success story for many reasons. From day one he was totally focused and although he struggled initially with the standard required, he worked extremely hard, never missed a training session, was always on time and gave 100 per cent commitment.
He eventually broke into the team and became a regular player with some outstanding performances. He was voted the most improved player and in his second season was voted Player of the Year
The teachers kept asking me ‘what have you done with this student?’ The biggest compliment came from his father at the end of his final year who thanked me for giving him his son back. Wiffin (Wiff), I’m so proud to say, left college with a future. It taught me a big lesson in life that success is not just about education or winning football matches, it’s about giving youngsters an opportunity in life.
Unfortunately, due to the government cuts on support funding in 2018, the football programme was not able to continue and after a very enjoyable five years the programme came to an end in that September.
The behaviour of two of our Premier League players a few weeks ago was stupid.
Jack Grealish (Aston Villa captain) and Kyle Walker (Manchester City defender) flouted lockdown social guidelines. These players are paid extortionate salaries not just to play football but to be role models to the youngsters.
If they were of little value they probably would have been sacked it was only a case of an apology and fine which was a drop in the ocean.
Then Jose Mourinho (Spurs manager) disobeyed the guidelines after he was spotted training players in a park. Are these people stupid or just ignorant and arrogant? What is hard to understand? STAY AT HOME. (Rant over.)