Everton legacy for UK City of Culture

LINKS are being established between the city and Premier League football club Everton that could provide a lasting legacy to help young people from disadvantaged areas, the Sentinel can reveal.

As a first step, a total of 40 young people involved in a social inclusion project here will visit the club’s Goodison Park stadium, where they will be given free access to Everton’s match against Fulham on April 27.

The young people - who are involved in the TeenageKickz project run by former footballer Peter Hutton at the Junction - will also be coached by Everton staff before getting involved in a mini-blitz tournament.

Mr Hutton said that all of the young people were extremely excited at the prospect of visiting Everton, and that youngsters from Everton’s community scheme may travel in the opposite direction later in the year.

The move, which it is hoped will provide an ongoing legacy after the UK City of Culture year has finished, came about after a conversation on a social networking site earlier this year between Londonderry Sentinel editor and life-long Everton fan William Allen, fellow Toffees fanatic, Dominic Kearney, and Goodison Park legend, Neville Southall. Mr Southall indicated that he thought there might be support for a community initiative that involved social inclusion projects.

The conversation was sparked when Mr Allen mentioned a football match in which Mr Southall played against Derry City around 20 years ago.

The discussion turned to the City of Culture and possible contacts between Londonderry and Everton, which is based in Liverpool, which was formerly European City of Culture.

Mr Kearney, a teacher and author of top-rated novel, Cast Iron Men, comes from Liverpool but now lives in the Waterside. He suggested a formal cultural and sporting link-up between the cities.

As someone with an interest in teaching life skills, he suggested approaching Everton in the Community and the Everton Free School - who operate education through sports initiatives for young people from disadvantaged areas - with the idea of them becoming involved with a local project.

The legendary Everton goalkeeper was supportive but warned that any project must be built on a community, rather than solely sporting platform.

After Mr Kearney contacted the Everton organisations and received a positive response, Mr Allen contacted the Culture Company and the Junction.

The mantle was taken up by Peter Hutton, who quickly developed the initiative and has already successfully found funding for it.

A spokesman for Everton in the Community, told him: “We would be delighted to have you and your group over for the Fulham match. I will liaise with our group ticketing people here at Everton and arrange for tickets. I will include yourself on any correspondence with them.

“For your young people, we will be able to provide coaching sessions in the morning – split the group into smaller groups then bring them back together and put them into teams for a mini tournament between themselves.”

There is also a possibility that some of the young people may be invited to carry flags and lead the teams out onto the pitch.

Peter Hutton said TeenageKickz “is all about social inclusion, which is something Everton are working on too”.

He added that the young people were drawn from a number of different parts of the city and that he believes exchange schemes will carry on after this year as a legacy to to benefit young people in both cities.