Neville helps EFC mark community date

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Neville trains with young disabled children

Phil Neville helped Everton in the Community celebrate its 25th anniversary in a special birthday event, telling JMU Journalism how much the scheme means to him and the club.The club’s captain attended the celebration that was held at Everton’s training complex, Finch Farm, last week to commemorate 25 years since the sporting charity was first launched.

Neville joined over 100 guests, including staff and volunteers from the award-wining charity, and people from the local community that benefit from the programmes that are offered by the scheme.

The former England international was introduced to groups of young people who have taken up non-traditional sports such as judo, badminton, volleyball and table tennis with the help of Goodison Park club’s official charity.

After taking part in a brief judo lesson, Neville told JMU Journalism: “It was good fun. I thought I hurt her [judo coach] at first when I slammed her on the floor but obviously, she’s bigger and tougher than me but I won‘t be doing it again, that’s for sure!  It’s great for kids’ confidence though.”

The 36-year-old then chatted to a group of ex-Forces personnel from Everton’s Inside Right initiative, which helps make the transition to civilian life an easier process for veterans who either have or who are at risk from developing mental health problems. It also allows them to make new friends and gives them the chance to exercise.

He said: “It’s not just sick children, you get disabled children and you get able-bodied children, you get people that have been in the army that are suffering. It covers every spectrum and it’s quite humbling when you come into this kind of environment and you see the effect that even just a short visit has on these people. When you see the actual effort that goes in with the coaches, the staff and all the volunteers and when you see the smile on the children’s faces, it’s like Christmas day.”

The skipper then met two groups of disabled footballers and had a quick training session with them before joining in a lesson with students from the Everton Free School and talked about how education is important to help improve employment prospects.

Neville knows first-hand of how sports programmes and charities like Everton in the Community can make a huge difference to the lives of both able-bodied and non-able-bodied people. He has an eight-year old daughter, Isabella, who suffered a stroke in the womb and as a result, was born ten weeks prematurely and was later diagnosed with cerebral palsy at 18-months.

Everton FC celebrating 25 years of their community scheme

Everton FC celebrating 25 years of their community scheme

Despite her condition, Isabella has completed a number of runs over the past few years, helping to raise money for charity, including £20m for the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital, where she has been treated, making Neville a perfect ambassador for the programme.

Everton in the Community was established on 1 February 1988, and over the last 25 years has won a number of awards, proving that it is one of the most well-respected and revolutionary sporting charities in the UK.

Neville added: “I think most clubs do sterling work in the community but here at Everton, I’ve seen it first hand in the last eight years, we are the pioneers I’d say. The initiatives that we put on for the children and for the community, I think are the forefront of many community programmes and I’ve seen how the programme has grown over the last ten years that I’ve been at the club and the disability programme have won awards this year.“I think that we’re brilliant at this club and I think that footballers in general do a lot of sterling work in the community, visiting hospitals, visiting sick children, donating their time and their money to special causes.

“It’s not something that we want applauding for, this is something that we have to do and something that we want to do because we are in a position where we can change lives and we can have an effect on people’s lives and I see it as a privilege.”

About Elisha Storrow, JMU Journalism