Archives for January 2015

Will’s Inspiring Story

willcastleWill Castle is a participant on the Crystal Palace Foundation’s Learning Difficulties football courses. 4 years ago Will was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder with Asperger’s Syndrome and Dyspraxia having lived the entirety of his life with these conditions undetected.

Will felt isolated in his school days as a young boy and often felt alienated from the mainstream. His memories of school are ones of seclusion and loneliness, which caused Will to retreat from the conventional childhood of a youngster.

In 1996 Will underwent work experience from college at Crystal Palace FC where he had fond memories visiting as a child alongside his Granddad – who was a lifelong Palace fan. Will has a passion for football and indeed Crystal Palace, which allowed him to escape from the difficulties of every day life and enjoy watching legends of the era such as Ian Wright and Mark Bright.

Will went on to spend 11 years as a steward in his twenties at fortress Selhurst Park, where he enjoyed encountering the buzz of match days. Unfortunately, still suffering with the complications of his learning difficulties had impacted hugely on Will’s social mobility and ability to interact with people.

It was his daytime work where he felt under-appreciated and put-on which resulted in him being depressed and shutting down so that he didn’t go to work and therefore lost his job.

Still retaining his love for Crystal Palace and football, Will noticed an advert in the newspaper for local football sessions catering for people with needs such as his own. Will took a risk by deciding to trial a session, but immediately felt comfortable in this environment. For the first time he felt understood and accepted in a group. The most apparent changes were communication and integrating with people in a social setting. Will commented that this is the first time he believed he was surrounded by like-minded people who accepted and appreciated his condition.

Since joining the Croydon Eagles, Will has gone from strength to strength. His mother, Josie, has noticed the biggest change in his personality and general attitude to life. She expressed her joy at Will being more ‘awake and alert, happy, settled and accepted’. Will has eventfully been able to have fun, laugh and interact with people ‘on his wavelength’.

The Crystal Palace Foundation are constantly reaching out to vulnerable people of all ages that need a helping hand to find people similar to themselves. We give these people a way of expressing themselves in an environment they feel comfortable and a chance to engage with people who might have similar experiences to them. Importantly, these programmes are a way to give participants an enjoyable and happy experience, meet new people, learn new skills and play some football along the way.

This project, fronted by Michael Harrington, Foundation Disability Officer, has given Will a new lease of life and a big step into an accommodating community.

If you know of anyone who shares a similar story to Will, or are interested in being involved in one of our sessions, please get in touch with Michael Harrington at the Foundation:

Get Fitter for Feb


Boris Johnson hails football mentoring scheme that is supporting 1000s of young Londoners


  • Top teams including Arsenal, Chelsea, Crystal Palace and Tottenham Hotspur are supporting positive activity and helping to steer young people away from crime
  • Mayor and Premier League commit to £1 million additional funding to get more London teens into further education and employment

New figures show 131 young Londoners have found employment and 712 have been signposted into further education or training as a result of a football-based youth mentoring programme funded by the Mayor of London and the Premier League.
The London Premier League Kicks scheme, which has been running across 20 London boroughs, has worked with over 1,300 12–18 year old Londoners who are either in a gang or deemed at risk of becoming involved in crime. In line with the Mayor’s ambitions for young Londoners and his efforts to tackle youth crime, it offers people the opportunity to turn away from gang life and instead take part in football lessons and life skills workshops led by Premier League Football Clubs including Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur.  
The year-long pilot programme has exceeded its targets, working with nearly 500 more young Londoners than expected, and providing over 30,000 hours of activity across the capital. MOPAC has committed £200,000 funding over the next two years to continue the programme beyond its pilot phrase, with the Premier League providing £800,000. This will extend the positive work of Kicks until 2016, giving hundreds more young Londoners the chance to join the programme.   
The Kicks training sessions take place in priority areas linked to gang activity at key times and days of the week including Friday and Saturday evenings, to help keep young people off the streets and away from harmful influences. Those on the programme are referred via the Trident Gang Command, Met police, probation service, local authority, school or other partner agency; demonstrating the Mayor’s Office for Policing And Crime’s (MOPAC) ambition to get public services working more closely together.  
The Mayor through MOPAC has set specific crime and policing targets for London including reducing crime by 20 per cent and increasing confidence in police by 20 per cent. Kicks breaks down barriers between police and young people, with plain clothed Met officers regularly attending sessions. Four in ten of those involved say that since joining Kicks, they have a more positive attitude towards the police and almost half have an increased awareness of crime’s consequences.
The Mayor of London Boris Johnson said: “London Premier League Kicks has proved to be a huge success by preventing hundreds of young Londoners from drifting into crime and showing them the wealth of positive opportunities that can await them in this great city. Using the positive influence of football, this pilot has proved a phenomenal success in turning around the lives of over 800 vulnerable individuals. I am pleased to confirm funding to see an expansion to the programme ensuring even more young people have the chance to pour their energy and ambitions into a brighter future.”
Deputy Mayor for Policing And Crime Stephen Greenhalgh said: “Kicks is part of our London-wide mission to tackle gangs and youth crime in the capital. Programmes like this are making a real difference to young people by providing a positive alternative for young people at risk of crime. By working closely with the Met and the Premier League, those involved have been able to develop better relationships with the police, while officers have gained an invaluable insight into the attitudes and aspirations of our young people.” 
Chief Executive of the Premier League Richard Scudamore said: “Premier League Kicks delivers diversionary activity for young people in the most hard to reach communities in the country.  This new programme for the capital, working with 12 professional clubs, has focused over the last year on 20 police priority boroughs. It has exceeded all expectations. Today, the Premier League and MOPAC are committing funding to run the programme for a further two years. I would like to thank the Mayor and his office, the Police, the Clubs and most importantly the participants, for enabling this initiative to make a real difference to young people and their communities across London.”

Commander Mak Chishty, Metropolitan Police lead for community engagement: “The success of the Kicks Premier League scheme has not been solely about providing football opportunities for young people; it has turned many of them away from crime. Over 1,300 young people have been referred to the scheme by partner agencies such as the police, youth offending teams, pupil referral units and local authorities. It has provided hundreds of them with the opportunity to improve their lives by gaining employment and offering training opportunities. In continuing to work closely with the Mayor of London and the Premier League, we can build upon the current success of the scheme, breaking down barriers between police and young people – allowing more of them to achieve qualifications which might not otherwise have been possible”

Levi Smith was referred to Kicks after an 18 month spell in a juvenile and then adult prison. He is now volunteering at Crystal Palace FC Foundation as an assistant coach as well as studying for an Access to Business course, which he hopes will assist him gaining a university place. 

Levi, 20, said: “School definitely wasn’t for me: I had no interest and felt I got no encouragement. After I left school and college, I was just on the streets causing trouble and hanging around with the wrong crowd. Ending up in prison was a big wake-up call and being transferred to an adult prison was a shock to the system. When I came out of prison, I was back living at home and was desperately looking for something to keep me occupied and off the streets. Since taking part in Kicks I think I’ve become a better person. I was very anti-social before, but working with a small group, I learnt how to get on with people and communicate better. I hadn’t really had much of an interest in football before the course but the football coaching was fun as we got to work with all different age groups in the community. The team here have really supported me deal with things I found a challenge – even my short temper. Because I had been in prison for so long, if anyone irritated me, I just dealt with it in a physical way. The coaches helped me to find better ways of coping. The course has had a positive impact on my life because I’ve been socialising with others on the course and not hanging around with my old friends. I feel positive about future too and I’ve already been accepted onto a college course to study business. My attitude has changed so much and I feel more ready for training and eventually the workplace.”