This year marks the seventh year of Manchester United’s re-launch of its ‘Football In The Community’ programme, a scheme which allows the football club into the heart of the Greater Manchester community.
The programme, ran by a group of youth coaches at the club, provides a structured programme at grass-roots clubs and in primary schools across Greater Manchester, with the aim of forming positive working relationships.
The presence of one of the world’s biggest football clubs in local schools has not gone unnoticed, and has been met with praise from teachers in Greater Manchester.
Sarah Ojapah, a teacher at The Fryers school in Salford said: “I think it is great community spirit, a lot of the children at The Fryers are from Salford and support Manchester United, so seeing their coaches coming into our school means a lot to them.”
The coaches travel to different schools across the county for a six to eight week block of coaching, working with children from key stage one and above.
This not only allows the children to develop key core skills along with basic football knowledge, but also allows the children work as a team whilst following rules.
Ryan Skivington, a teacher from Park View Community School in Miles Platting spoke about the importance of the children being exposed to the work Manchester United do from such a young age.
He said: “Most of the work we do in school is for the older children, so it is nice to have something for the key stage one children.
For us it gives them a chance to represent the school, to play with their peers and to experience a bit of friendly competition.”
To date, the programme has delivered training to over 400 different primary schools, and after each programme, five schools from each key stage are invited to separate competitions.
At the end of March, Manchester United hosted the Community Cup competition for key stage one pupils at The Cliff Training Complex in Salford, a training ground where Manchester United legends such as Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes were taught their trade.
After warm-up exercises and a round-robin tournament the children were mixed into different teams and wore the international football kits of different countries.
At this point, mixing the children so that they were playing with children they had not met before was a vital part of the day, as explained by coach Eddie Leach.
He said: “Mixing the children together is important as it allows the children to establish new friendships, and the mixture of different levels of ability can be beneficial when looking at their footballing ability.”
Eddie, who has been a coach at Manchester United for over 20-years discussed the important skills that children learn through the scheme.
He said: “Primarily we want the children to enjoy themselves and have fun, but we also encourage them to learn from mistakes and to try new things that they have learnt through their school training sessions.”
The coach also spoke about why these competitions are also so important for Manchester United.
He said: “For us as coaches, we do take this opportunity to pinpoint any children that may have certain talents.
“Nowadays there is a lot of competition from other local clubs to sign players at a young age, which is why it is so important that we go into schools to identify talent from as young as possible.”
The day was a resounding success for both the schools and the club, however, for the teachers the experience runs deeper than a day off school playing football.
Miss Ojapah spoke about the confidence the day brought out the children, especially those who struggle academically but strive at sporting activities.
“Today demonstrates to these pupils that there are opportunities outside of the classroom to achieve great things, it gives them something to aspire to and makes them feel cared for not only by their school, but by such a great football team.”