The first North West Kicks 7-a-side tournament recently took place at the Aon Training Complex with seven teams of 16-19 year olds representing Wigan Athletic, Blackburn Rovers, Everton, Stoke City, Manchester City, Bolton Wanderers and Manchester United.
Kicks began in 2006 as a pilot project of the Premier League and the Metropolitan Police, with the aim of using football to bring communities together and engage young people. Eight years later and Kicks has grown to include 42 Premier League and Football League clubs offering 112 community projects to over 45,000 children. Manchester United Foundation runs its own version of Kicks – Street Reds – at nine locations across Greater Manchester.
During the tournament, Manchester United Kicks team comprised of players from various Street Reds projects. The team ran out eventual winners in a hard fought final against a well organised and determined Everton side. United Legend Paddy Crerand was on hand to present the winners’ medals and gave some valuable advice to the players who took part:
“We have this strange situation in Britain where if you don’t make it at 14 then you don’t make it as a professional footballer. Well that is rubbish, there are so many players who have made it at 20, 21, 22, so don’t give up. I was amazed by the standard out there and thought the tournament was terrific.”
United vice-captain Mitchell Freeman, who volunteers at the Hulme Street Reds project, said, “It was a good day, there are a lot of different Kicks projects around the North West and it was a great experience to be playing at a facility like the Aon Training Complex. It’s not something you do every day. We enjoyed it as a team and really made the most of it.”
Tom Oldbury, Foundation coach and organiser of the tournament added, “It was a great opportunity for all of the North West Kicks clubs to reward their young people that attend sessions regularly and show outstanding positive behaviour. It was a great atmosphere all round and the feedback from the other clubs has been overwhelming, it was a long day but we can’t wait to do it again.”
Find out more about Manchester United Foundation Street Reds projects.
View more images from the tournament on Facebook.