Chris Humphrey popped in to Lancashire FA's College Enrichment League last week.
In conjunction with Preston’s College, the Trust has recently helped set up a disability college football team where members from Preston’s College represent North End at regional tournaments.
Despite its early stages, the initiative has proved a resounding success with more and more students from Preston’s College granted access to the sport they love.
The benefits were evident at Lancashire FA’s College Enrichment League recently where the Trust have aided the terrific work already been done by the County FA to enable those with an impairment access to sport.
The College Enrichment League sees students with a disability from various colleges throughout the area compete against each other in frequent tournaments; and the most recent competition saw PNE’s Chris Humphrey popping in to see the impressive set-up.
Humphrey’s appearance was certainly one that the participants got excited about, with David Woods and Aqil Patel, both of whom were in the PNE team and two of many North End fans at the event who were eager to meet the North End winger.
“We’ve been playing football games representing Preston’s College and Preston North End and we’ve so far had lots of fun.” Said 17-year-old Aqil whose love for the game was apparent when he spoke to the club website at the event.
“It’s my favourite sport to do. I’ve got another team that I play for on Fridays also and we’ve got coaches from PNE also which is good.
“It’s good to wear the PNE kit and it’s great to represent Preston’s College. We feel proud to and we’re having a great time.”
David, who was part of one of two teams that North End and Preston’s College entered into the tournament added: “I like to play football in my spare time. It’s difficult as there are not as many opportunities out there for us but this is a great opportunity for us. It helps us to improve our communication skills also.
“I’m a big PNE fan, I like Jermaine Beckford and Daniel Johnson; they’re both class players. For the New Year’s Eve game, we’re going to get free tickets and play the half-time penalty shoot-out game so that’s something we’re looking forward too.”
11 colleges in total took part in the event at Preston North End’s Community Training Centre at PlayFootball, and overseeing the football festivities was Disability and Inclusion Officer Andrew Whittaker who spoke of a scheme that has blossomed over the years.
“We wanted to provide people with a disability an opportunity to play football within a college environment,” stated Andrew on the initial aims of the movement.
“Unfortunately, these students may not be able to make the 11 a side college first team because of their impairment so what we looked at is giving people an equal right and an equal opportunity. We started a session from there and it went from strength to strength.
“We then looked at working with all of our college partners within the county which we are very blessed with and try to set up individual sessions from there. With Preston, we have PNE Community and Education
Trust doing some really good things with the college, delivering the sessions and helping to staff them on the day. We had a one off festival developing sessions and we now have such a big interest.
“Football is such a passionate game,” added Andrew. “You’ve heard it from individuals and you’ll see it on the pitch. People express it in different ways and we’re looking to create an environment that allows
participants to do that.
“That includes bringing in partners that help support us, whether that’s the Preston North End Community and Education Trust, colleges, coaches etc, all of whom are helping to support the players to come to events like this.
“Some of them are quite competitive and they let me know how many goals they’ve scored when they come off the pitch but then also you see the smiling faces as well and that’s the most important thing at the end of the day.”