Manchester United and England stars Danny Welbeck and Ashley Young dropped in on the Ability Counts training session and spent time chatting, signing autographs and posing for photographs before the team, aged 8-16, impressed the players with a penalty shoot-out.
Danny Welbeck commented, “It’s great for these kids to get the chance to come to the Cliff, use all the facilities here and put on a United shirt. To experience what it’s like to train with these coaches and represent Manchester United is a fantastic opportunity. But the most important thing is that it’s all about enjoyment and fun - I think a project like this is really good for the community and it was great to see the players today.”
12 year-old Christopher from Culcheth, near Warrington, has been training with the team for eight years. He is hearing impaired and also suffers from diabetes. Following the visit he said, “It’s been good, really good fun to meet the players today. Danny Welbeck is one of my favourite players so it was really exciting.”
Christopher’s dad, Peter, added, “It’s a chance that Christopher would never normally get; he loves supporting United and to meet the players is great. The support that the Foundation gives to the kids here is brilliant; it’s really worthwhile.”
The Foundation’s disability football programme offers young people with disabilities the opportunity to play or coach with Manchester United, and the Ability Counts programme has grown into one of the largest in the Premier League. Teams focus on players with a sensory, physical or neurological impairment or disability and sign communicators are present at all sessions.
Steve Harcourt, head of disability football at the Foundation, commented, “The visit from Danny and Ashley was something that our players could only dream about. Meeting their heroes is something every kid wants to do but not many get that chance and even fewer get the chance to show their hero how well they can take a penalty!
“All projects that the Foundation runs benefit from player visits as it adds to the value of what we are delivering, the participants on the projects also see this as a big ‘thank you’ or ‘well done’ from not only the Manchester United Foundation but also from the club itself.”