Port Vale FC Captain offers inspiration to Vale’s Education Squad

Port Vale FC skipper Nathan Smith welcomed new members to the Club ‘family’ at the launch of Port Vale Foundation’s Education Squad Programme.

The captain, who’s been with the Club, since 2014 – appearing more than 300 times for The Valiants – presented to a new cohort of learners for the popular education initiative which kicked off at Vale Park at the start of the 23/24 season.

Following an enrolment on a BTEC level 2/3 in Sport, the learners met Nathan at Vale Park with their families, where the captain outlined the culture, values and expectations throughout the Club.

Nathan said “The importance the Club places on valuing people is of the highest importance. We invest time and energy into making people the best they can be, and we set high standards for all staff, volunteers and learners.

“It was great to meet new members of the Port Vale family and give them a congratulations on achieving the required results as well as giving them insight into the way we do things at Port Vale.”

The Foundation revealed 23/24 Education Squad Goalkeeper Tom Beeby was called up to the club’s first team which shows the programme’s impact which operates in conjunction with Stoke-on-Trent College.

The EFL Club Community Organisation said: “We’re immensely proud that Tom’s hard work and positive mindset has given him this amazing opportunity.”



Wildcats with Derby County Community Trust gives Blythe the opportunity to progress onto the FA Talent Pathway

Blythe attends Derby County Community Trust’s FA Wildcats provision and she has become a role model to those around her, but she was not always the confident, bright young girl she is today.

The programme aimed at young girls aged 5-11 promotes a non-competitive, fun environment for all from those wanting to try football for the first time to girls who just want to play the game with girls the same age as them.

With emphasis on fun, Blythe has not only done that but has shown such enthusiasm, and commitment to the sessions that she epitomises the Wildcats values.

Blythe’s commitment paired with her talent has seen her refereed to the FA Talent Pathway.

The Talent Inclusion programme ensures that through existing community activities,  participants with potential can be identified and referred to the FA England Women’s Talent Pathway. The programme is specifically run by EFL Club Community Organisations, who engage with young girls from low social economic communities and underrepresented groups, and looks to refer talented players who may not access traditional talent pathways due to social class, ethnicity and demographic.

When first attending Wildcats, Blythe was a shadow of the person she has become today, a shy character with very low confidence. The programme has provided her a safe, enjoyable, consistent environment to excel in with the potential to provide her opportunities that she would not be granted if she was not to attend.

Wildcats has had such a huge affect on Blythe, that she has recommended it to her peers in and outside of school but it is not only Blythe who the programme has impacted.

Blythe’s mother Rose, works tiredly to provide opportunity and an amazing life for her children and with the Trust being so important to her daughters development both as a person and as a football player, Rose has started her own journey with the Trust as a way to give back.

She volunteers her own time to help out on the delivery of Wildcat sessions, Premier League Kicks sessions and holiday activities that the Trust run throughout the year.

Maureen: “Being a volunteer with Derby County has given me a huge confidence boost and increased my own wellbeing knowing that I am helping others to be both physically and socially active.”

Maureen Reece has become a vital part of Derby County Community Trust’s Extra Time Hub enabling retired and semi-retired people like herself to make the most of their free time.

Maureen started her journey with Derby County as participant in the Community Trust’s Forever Active project, an exercise programme for the over 55’s, over five years ago.  However, Maureen enjoyed the sessions so much that she decided she wanted to give back to the Trust and help others. She became a DCCT volunteer in early 2019.

She started off supporting the weekly Stability session for over 60s. However soon after she started volunteering, the Trust joined the EFL Trust’s Extra Time Hub Network and began planning the launch of their Hub.  Initially funded by the National Lottery and Sport England, Extra Time Hubs aim to make a positive difference to the lives of semi-retired and retired people. The Hubs are communities of likeminded people.  They include weekly gatherings, often at the football stadium, but also a varied combination of face to face and online groups and activities. Crucially at the hub all the activity that takes place is shaped by the members and they are supported to do the things that they want to do.

Immediately, Maureen asked to be a part of this sessions and has played a pivotal role ever since, form setting up the session each fortnight to keeping everyone supplied with plenty of tea and coffee!  Maureen has helped others within the sessions she supports and helped people join the groups too. She is always happy about seeing people achieve their goals and progressing. She commits five hours per week to the Trust and is always the first to arrive and the last to leave.

During lockdown, Maureen remained engaged in several group chats and is helped staff to set challenges and encourage people to be more interactive in the group. When asked about how the sessions supported her during the pandemic, she answered that they “had been a lifesaver, as someone living alone.”

Maureen also became an integral part of the Rams Lunch Club project, which has provided meals to various groups and helped reconnect isolated members of society. Maureen added: “Being a volunteer has given me a huge confidence boost and increased my own wellbeing, knowing that I am helping others to be both physically and socially active.”

Jon Fairbrother Physical Activity and Health Officer added: “Maureen always has a smile on her face and is willing to help anyone. Her enthusiasm encourages the group to continue to attend and has helped with social activities away from the group too, which has been so important.”

To find out more about Extra Time Hubs click here.


From Participant to Coach: How Foundation 92 Changed Damian’s Life

“Last week I was working in a Youth Centre discussing crime and one of the kids questioned ‘what do you know about it?’. So, I told them about my past and what I’d been through, so I know how they feel.”

Damian is now a coach at Foundation 92, Salford City FC’s Charity, however he was once on the other side of their provision as a participant and his outlook was very different. Damian had been dealt a rough hand and after being made homeless he began to experience depression. His depression became so intense that he believed there was no way out and one day he said to his mum “I love you, have a good life.” With no intention of returning home, he went to the train station to end his life, but as he tried to do so, a stranger pulled him back and asked Damian what was wrong.  Simply put, Damien replied, “I’m done.”

Damian was invited to Foundation 92’s, 92 Shield programme and this is where the trajectory of his life began to change. The programme provides a safe space for football and conversation for those who have faced various hardships.

On his experience with the programme, he explained: “I love football and so my mental health totally changed where from I was down in the dumps of not wanting to get up in the morning to having something to look forward to.”

The Foundation 92 staff became a support network to Damian that he felt he could turn to at any time.

And now as a full-time Community Sports Coach at the Foundation, this hasn’t changed.

He said: “the Foundation has given me a sense of well-being and family with some of my colleagues, knowing that you can talk to and trust them.”

His progression from participant and coach is something he “can’t believe” and he now hopes he can use his own experiences to help people in his local community through their struggles.

“We do a lot of work in education, so I’ve been involved in helping children that need extra support with their behavioural challenges, so it’s given me an insight into what other people’s lives are like. I can put myself in their situations and give them a bit of guidance and support.

“Most of the things that they have been through, I’ve seen or experienced myself, so we have similar upbringings or backgrounds. It’s about how you put it [experiences] through.”

Trust opens new eco Family Zone

Families and staff celebrated the opening of Burton Albion Community Trust’s first eco Family Zone.

Taking place before Burton Albion’s recent home game against Forest Green Rovers, the area was awash with green endeavours as they hosted several family fun activities with an environmental focus.

The special event, held at the Burton Albion Community Football Centre, was at the end of the Great Big Green Week, the UK’s biggest ever celebration of community action to tackle climate change and protect nature.

Katie Johnson, School Sport Manager at Burton Albion Community Trust said:

“As we all know, now more than ever we have to look after the environment.

“We hope our eco Family Zone is the start of something big. Doing something no matter how big or small will go some way to help to save our environment.”

Among the activities and offer on the day were the regular family zone activities, such as football, archery and inflatable fun.

In addition, the Trust launched a Planet League Competition, a football-themed climate action tournament, and urged attendees to take part in a Layering Up challenge and bring their old football boots along because the site will become a Utilita Football Rebooted drop off point, to ensure they are rehomed and don’t end up in landfill.

Trust staff also promoted smart meters, as part of the EFL partnership with Smart Energy GB, the not-for-profit campaign helping everyone in Britain understand the importance of smart meters and their benefits to people and the environment.

Waste savvy staff were also on hand with some fun and games to show participants what waste can be disposed of where from their home and in the local community, and their Pedal To The Pitch initiative, where fans can chain their bikes up for free at the ground while fans enjoy the match.

The Family Zone takes place at the Burton Albion Community Football Centre every home matchday and commences 90 minutes before kick-off.

Natalie: “Match Fit was the best thing I ever did, I now have a full-time role and can actually go on holidays with my son!”

Natalie McDonagh, a 27 year-old from Scotland, struggled to find employment due to her criminal record, but after completing a Match Fit Traineeship at Blackpool FC Community Trust, she landed a full-time position.

Blackpool FC Community Trust are one of eight EFL Club Community Organisations (CCOs) who run a Match Fit Traineeship in the country, with their first pilot solely aimed at females due to the high number of unemployed females in the 25+ age bracket in Blackpool.

A Match Fit Traineeship programme provides opportunities for unemployed people over 25 to gain valuable experience in a particular work environment while also developing functional skills such as Maths and English, enhancing their employability competencies.

The programme marries up with the DWP’s agenda and broader client group, offering support for the older unemployed, single parents, and clients with a range of barriers and challenges, such as mental health, social isolation, and physical disabilities.

After moving to Blackpool five years ago from Scotland with her son, Natalie struggled to find employment due to her criminal record.

She received a call from the Job Centre about Blackpool FC Community Trust’s Match Fit programme and took on the opportunity to improve her employability chances.

She said: “Before the Traineeship I was out looking for work, handing out my CV and attending appointments. I really wanted to prove myself and have a fresh start, but I just wasn’t getting anywhere because I had a criminal record.

“I received a call about the Match Fit Traineeship and it was the best decision I ever made, taking it on.”

After completing the course and passing her Maths and English exams, Natalie landed a full-time role as a cleaner.

Three months later, she is excelling in her role and credits the programme for the many benefits it has given her, including helping her to develop her self-confidence.

She added: “Before the Traineeship, my confidence was really low. I was so shy and scared communicating with other people as I was always used to being on my own, but the course helped me build my confidence and find the courage to push myself.

“I’m really enjoying my role and all the things that full-time work can give me. Honestly I don’t know where I’d be, or what I would have done without the programme in helping me get here.

“Now I have a full-time role I can do things I’ve always wanted like go on holidays with my son!

“My piece of advice would be that if you really want something, you have to stick at it and never give up. I’d highly recommend the Traineeship programme because if you work hard enough there really is a reward at the end of it.

“People say they can see a big difference in me now, saying that I seem so much happier and smiling more and that I’m different to how I was a year ago.

“There’s no point saying you can’t do something, because you can.”



Peter: “Since being a part of Wycombe Wanderers’ Football Fans in Training, I have now ran the 6.8 mile walk that led to my heart attack three times.”