The Premier League is celebrating 15 years of its flagship community programme. Premier League Kicks has supported hundreds of thousands of young people to achieve their potential and improve their wellbeing through free weekly football sessions and educational workshops.
To mark the occasion and to celebrate the achievement, a cluster of North West clubs came together during half-term to take part in a number of tournaments giving regular PL Kicks participants the chance to represent their club in an organised competition.
We caught up with Adam, our Community Youth Sports Manager, to see what our participants took part in.
Over the course of the week Blackpool was one of two clubs to take part in all four competitions, aiming to cover a range of participants which included: U13 boys, U16 boys, U14 girls and disability teams.
We are proud to say that participants from every single Kicks session, that we deliver, were represented at some tournament throughout the week.
On Monday it was Accrington Stanley’s turn to host a tournament for U16’s boys which had eight different clubs attend including: Blackpool, Accrington, PNE, Blackburn, Fleetwood, Morecambe, Burnley and Bolton. The day was a real success both on and off the pitch with the team getting the chance to take part in a healthy living workshop as well as playing a number of fixtures. The team did really well and played some excellent football throughout.
They worked their way through the group stages to earn a place in the semi final against Burnley. Despite going 1-0 down for most of the match, the equaliser finally came 30 seconds from time when our entire team including, the goalkeeper, was sent up to attack a long free kick into the box. The ball was bundled over the line which sent the game to penalties.
Luckily our goalkeeper put in a strong performance, saving three penalties and scoring his own penalty which sent the team through to the final to play Bolton.
In what was a closely contested and frantic final, a moment of absolute quality from Bolton’s striker finally settled the game as he connected with a volley when the ball came over his shoulder which he sent past the goalkeeper. This meant that we took the runners-up spot in the tournament.
On Tuesday it was the turn of the U14 girls team who made the short journey to Fleetwood to take part in a tournament made up of teams with a real range of abilities.
The girls had a tough start taking on a strong Accrington Stanley team who had a host of strong players and moved the ball around really well from start to finish. They had a few closely contested games against Blackburn, PNE, Morecambe and Fleetwood before playing another tough game against Burnley where they fell to a heavy defeat. They did however, manage two good wins throughout the day but it was no surprise to see Burnley and Accrington in the final which was a very fast paced game that went to penalties which Burnley eventually won.
The day was topped off with the chance for each girl in the tournament to mix together and play a game of bowling, with one of our girls taking part in their first ever game!
Wednesday’s event was for those living with a disability. We teamed up with Park Community Academy who took a number of our regular Junior Pan-Ability participants over to Burnley to take part in what ended up being a fixture between the two teams.
The Burnley and Blackpool FC teams took part in two matches against each other with Blackpool walking away the victors in both games after some excellent team performances. We also took part in a mental health workshop and were given a free dinner courtesy of the hosts.
The final tournament of the week was held by Preston North End. We took a team of U13 boys to attend a really high quality tournament with a lot of exciting players taking part.
We began the day with two really tough games against Fleetwood and Carlisle. Unfortunately, we narrowly lost both however, the team went on to win against Blackburn Rovers. It was at this point that the tournament had to be postponed due to adverse weather which made the playing surface dangerous to play on.
As part of the day PNE put a workshop on which was a really powerful story told by one of their newly appointed staff members who talked about his experiences in an earlier period of his life and how the decisions the young people make now could affect their life going forwards.
The 40 young people who represented the club over the course of the week did so with real pride and can be happy with how they acted throughout. A huge well done to everybody involved from both Blackpool and all of the other clubs involved.