Charlie Hurst’s first visit to Preston North End – and his only time attending a football match before last month – came for a friendly against Liverpool, nearly six years ago.
Charlie, who has special educational needs, has since returned to Deepdale in a different capacity – enrolling on the Trust’s secondary school provision programme at the start of the academic year.
He has since gone on to develop a real passion for all things Preston North End and now, as part of our Level Playing Field matchday celebrating access and inclusion for disabled supporters this weekend, Charlie is set to be mascot for QPR’s visit to Deepdale!
The Shaftesbury High School student spends one day a week at Deepdale as part of his education plan, with the programme at Deepdale providing an alternative setting for pupils who are disengaged with their studies or suffering with low confidence and self-esteem.
“It’s a nice break from school when I come out to Preston North End because it’s nice playing sports and it’s just a huge change from school,” Charlie told The One And Only last month.
“It is quite motivational because it gives me a reason to be good and behave in school because I know that I get to come here.
“At home, I know if I were to misbehave, I wouldn’t be allowed to come to Preston either, so it’s a motivation to behave well.”
Charlie agreed that studying with PNECET has allowed him to develop as an individual, too.
“I feel like it has made me a bit of a better person,” he added.
“At school, I’ve always been a bit bored but when I came here, it’s changed because there are different things happening every week.”
The 13-year-old has developed such an enjoyment for studying with PNECET that he is now actively following the Lilywhites’ on-pitch fortunes, returning to Deepdale with his parents in February to watch his first competitive match; PNE against Swansea City.
And in his interview with the matchday programme, Charlie had no problem in finding exactly where he had sat to watch that game, in the Sir Tom Finney Family Stand.
“When I started coming here, I started to like football more, I started playing it and I decided I wanted to come to my first competitive match.
“It was 1-1 with Scott Sinclair scoring his first goal, it was a great goal and I had a great time.
“We’re hoping to be able to attend more matches at Deepdale soon because the area is so local and it’s a great thing to be able to get to very easily.”
For more information about the secondary school provision programme, click here. Alternativerly, contact secondary school education tutor Jake Blackburn on firstname.lastname@example.org.