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24 September 2014
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Children in Need

Jerome, a young footballer

Phoenix Utd - giving talented kids a goal

Channelling kids' energies into sport is a good way of keeping them off the streets and out of trouble, and this is exactly what one charity in Birmingham is doing.

All too often we hear about Aston, Handsworth and Lozells in relation to gang warfare and gun and drug crime.

Wayne, the coach
Wayne, the coach

This overshadows the positive projects happening in these communities and the good work that's done by people who really want to help young people in these areas.

City United was formed two years ago to tackle the problem of keeping kids off the streets through sport and to give them something positive to focus on and something to aim for. 

This year, Children In Need has given the charity a grant to help it on its way.

Under the grey concrete pillars of the elevated section of the M6 motorway at Spaghetti Junction, on a series of all-weather pitches, children from the ages of 4 to 14 gather from Tuesday to Saturday (every week as well as school holidays), to practise their football skills. 

Football practice
West Bromwich Albion Academy

The scheme runs 10 football teams, Phoenix United, and all are at or near the top of their respective  leagues.

They’re coached by trained coaches, some are ex-professional footballers, and they are mentored by older children and work experience teenagers.

Wayne Henry who coaches the kids and is a talent scout for West Bromwich Albion, said: "We try to promote family values.  We try to get the parents involved with the young people. 

"All the young people are keen, they want to get off the streets and we’re just trying to push them in the right direction so that they can do that."

Jerome, a young footballer
Jerome, West Bromwich Albion Academy

He continued:  "Some of the young people would be hanging round on the streets, getting themselves into trouble – anti-social behaviour and stuff like that.  Now because of this sense of belonging to something, it’s helped raise their self-esteem, their confidence and their focus as well."

Conrad Grant who does work experience at City United and plays for one of the teams said: "We’d be on the streets, messing about with friends, all the bad stuff.  Here you just get to play football, coach, it’s cool."

A big incentive for the kids is that several of the Phoenix players have been talent spotted by professional clubs like Stoke City, Coventry City and West Bromwich Albion for their academies. 

Tina, Jerome's mum
Tina, Jerome's mum

Jerome Sinclair was spotted by a scout.  He thinks it’s all a dream and he might be just about to wake up:  "I had to go for a six week trial for West Bromwich Albion and I actually went, and after one training session I got signed."

The coach Wayne said: "Every single young person wants to be a professional footballer.  However they don’t believe they can actually do it. 

"But when you’ve got someone in your own camp, like Jerome, who the kids all know, they say – OK this is achievable, this is realistic and therefore it raises their self esteem.  It makes them work harder and try a bit more."

Kicking a football
Kicking a football

Jerome’s mum, Tina, who has two other children at Phoenix said:  "There's not enough facilities for children to keep them out of trouble.  They need more places like this, especially for boys".

With the Children in Need grant the club can continue to help talented footballers like Jerome achieve their dream.

Video feature on Phoenix Utd

Take a look at Phoenix Utd training and chats with the some of those involved with the club.

video Phoenix United >
Audio and Video links on this page require Realplayer
last updated: 17/06/08
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