Hearing-impaired striker, Ross McCarthy joined the Manchester United Ability Counts programme at the age of fourteen after being told at his local deaf club that the Manchester United Foundation provide young people of any disability with the opportunity to play football.
Now, aged twenty, Ross plays in a Manchester United eleven-a-side deaf-friendly team that, for the first time this season, is playing in a mainstream league. Ross explains:
"Playing in the Eccles Sunday League means we're playing against harder teams, but this has helped me learn more about the game and tests me to my limits. Physically I know I'm a lot stronger now and I learn more and more with every match I play."
Currently 6th in the league, the team's development has caught the eye of the Head Coach for the Great Britain Deaf team. A number of United players have now been identified as having international potential and Ross's progress resulted in an instant call up he debuted against France in November 2011.
Team coach Steve Harcourt was quick to identify his player's ability:
"Ross has a great understanding of football and is always eager to push himself, plus he has great awareness and technical ability. On the pitch he is a natural leader and also a great role model for the other players."
Keen to recognise his achievement, the Manchester United Foundation arranged for Ross to visit the Carrington training ground where Rio Ferdinand was quick to congratulate him and invite him to watch the first team train.
"Ross meeting Rio had a huge impact on all the players," explains Steve. "It really pushes the lads on to know the club is backing them 100%, it has given all of them a great boost."
As for Ross, although he enjoyed watching the Champions train, he's focusing on his own future in the game:
"This call up has been my greatest achievement so far, but I'm a very competitive person and I hope I can gain more experiences like this. All I've ever wanted to do is play football and my ambition is to be the best player I can possible be."
Manchester United's disability programme was set up in 2000 in line with the FA's Ability Counts campaign. The programme is open to all disabled players aged fourteen upwards and our teams focus on players with sensory and physical disabilities. Sign communicators are present at all Ability Counts sessions.
For further details on Ability Counts please contact Steve Harcourt on 0161 708 9451, firstname.lastname@example.org