City’s players engaged in a training session with local homeless people as part of a new Community Trust project.
In a joint partnership with the Homeless FA, City have signed up 15 local people who are all keen to turn their lives around through the power of football.
Head coach Sean O’Driscoll and his assistant Richard O’Kelly put them through their paces before letting the homeless people go head-to-head with the first team squad.
To give the new kids on the block a chance, City fielded just ten players against 15 – and goalkeeper Tom Heaton was thrust up front, with Steven Davies and Matthew Bates taking turns between the sticks.
Gareth Parker, Homeless FA CEO, said: “The Homeless FA supports all initiatives that use football as a means of improving the lives of homeless people in England.
“We believe that every person has the potential to change their lives positively and that football can facilitate such a transformation.
“The opportunity to have a coaching session alongside the stars at Bristol City is a real money-can’t-buy experience. All 15 of those taking part in the project will also get to watch the first team in action against Huddersfield Town this weekend.
“We want them to feel a part of the club and the response from everyone at the club and the Community Trust has been tremendous.”
Vicky Barlow, Community Trust development officer, said: “This was the first day of the project and everyone had smiles on their faces. The players were tremendous getting involved, as they have been all season, visiting schools and training camps.
“The work of the Homeless FA fits very nicely with the Trust’s desire to improve lives through the power of football and we’re delighted to be associated with them.”
Heaton joined Marvin Elliott and Liam Fontaine in holding a short question-and-answer session with the participants after training. Throughout the project, they will enjoy five training sessions at Failand, and have the opportunity to earn a qualification.
On top of that, two will be chosen to represent England at the Homeless World Cup in Poland later this year.
City midfielder Paul Anderson said: “They’ve been through some tough times in their lives but when you’re out there having a kickaround it grounds you; it’s a level playing field. I think everyone enjoyed themselves.”