Two of Chris Hughton’s Brighton & Hove Albion FC backroom team took time out from fine-tuning the Seagulls squad to attend a session with under-18 players from Whitehawk.
Assistant manager Colin Calderwood and first team coach Nathan Jones joined former fans’ favourite Guy Butters in welcoming Wellesley Football Club - a project run by Albion in the Community (AITC) - to the club’s state-of-the-art American Express Elite Football Performance Centre.
Wellesley FC is part of AITC’s Premier League Kicks scheme which helps provide young people from some of Sussex’ most-deprived areas the chance to play competitive football and learn from qualified coaches.
The Wellesley group - so called because since July 2012 it has been sponsored by Sussex financial services company Wellesley Wealth Advisory based in Burgess Hill - is one of the most-successful and its players were invited to Lancing for a training day and Q&A with Calderwood and Jones.
Butters, who now works for AITC, has recently been appointed as honorary president of Wellesley FC and led a training session for the players prior to the arrival of Calderwood and Jones.
And the one-time imposing centre half was impressed with what he saw.
He said: “They [the players] have got a little bit of swagger and attitude about them but what I did like about them is that when you do try and coach them and point a few things out to them they are always willing to listen and a lot of the time they put it in to practice as well.
“At one stage I was thinking of putting my boots back on and joining in myself but I am sure that one or two of them would have given me the run around.
“It’s a great honour for me for be asked to be honorary president. I myself was brought up in London on a housing estate so for me to come in and help these fellas out is a great honour and a pleasure for me.
“If it wasn’t for better luck maybe I could have been involved in a Kicks project. I was lucky, I had football. A lot of my friends weren’t so lucky, they didn’t have football and a lot of them went off in the wrong direction. For these boys to be playing on a pitch next to where the first team train is fantastic. It never happened in my day. I’d have given my right arm to train where a professional team play.”
After the training session with Butters the players met Calderwood and Jones and, according to Wellesley player Owen Burberry, meeting two people so closely-involved with the Seagulls first team proved an inspiring afternoon.
He said: “It was decent, because Colin Calderwood came up from low and so did Nathan Jones and the fact they are where they are now means anyone can get where they want to in life. To hear all about their experiences - like Calderwood playing Zinedine Zidane - was quite inspiring.”
For further information about Wellesley FC and AITC’s Premier League Kicks sessions please contact Martin Schooley by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 01273 878 259.
Report contributed by Richard Morris, Albion in the Community. Picture by Paul Hazlewood.