If like James, you are a passionate football fan, a young teenager and autistic, you may be looking for somewhere to go where you can meet other young lads just like you and to enjoy the ‘beautiful game’ together. James’s mum, Mandy tells us all about Rutherford Football Club and the launch of their new ‘Footability’ for young people just like James and how this has already made a huge and positive difference to their lives.

Being a family of football fanatics and lifelong SAFC supporters, they have always taken James (now aged 12) and his elder brother to football matches. Although James had plenty of opportunities to have a kick about (his brother plays for a club) until now there wasn’t a team or league anywhere set up for young people with special needs or disabilities. Mandy and fellow mum, Leanne, whose son Zak is a friend of James and autistic too, approached Rutherford Football Club last year and asked the question. Things have now moved on a pace and over the past 6 weeks or so, James and Zak have become regulars at the club with the coaches encouraging them both to join in with the regular ‘Allability’ training going on and provided them both with the team training kits so that they very much felt part of the club.

“The coaches have been amazing and they even included James and Zak in their awards celebration event and presented them both with a trophy, which they loved! They have also been invited to have photos taken with the team at the club on Saturday!” Mandy explained. “The club provides a really safe and secure place for the kids to run around and enjoy themselves. I can see a huge difference in James’s confidence and it is so fantastic to see. He can now get his own drinks at the clubhouse – he is becoming much more independent. Before joining in with the team, James would take his iPad and sit alone in a corner, now he leaves it behind and carries his football!”

As a carer of a child with disabilities, Mandy can often feel lonely and as if she is on her own, but through Footability she is meeting others in similar situations and they can talk about any problems together and have a laugh too. “It really helps and I love it!” said Mandy.

Katherine Coxon, Disability Development Officer at the club, who is also a Learning Disability Nurse, explained the idea behind Footability, “We have always been a club that is accessible for all ages and abilities but more recently we have had lots of enquiries around young people with disabilities and complex needs, who would like to be able to train and compete in their own league.  Footability, which we are launching on 17th July, will offer weekly 1 hour sessions for both juniors and adults with disabilities. The first session is free and £2.50 per session after that.”

If you would like to find out more or to go along to the first session, please contact Katherine at [email protected] you will be asked to complete a form beforehand to find out more about any specific needs. Following that, you can just pop along. 

Come down and give it a go. Everybody’s very welcome and we just want you to enjoy yourself!” said Katherine.

Mandy, James, Leanne and Zak are now all wonderingWhat did I do before Rutherford!"  

Footability session. Rutherford AFC. Saturday 1pm. Age 7-16.