Manchester United may have links with some of the biggest organisations in the world, but they have not forgotten their origins as a club, and perhaps more than most Premier League sides, remain connected with the local community.
Through their ‘Football in the Community’ (FITC) programme, the club have a connection with hundreds of children, coaches and volunteers.
FITC was re-launched in 2011, and works with grassroots clubs and football coaches in the North-West. The club educate and advise these groups to ensure that football remains fun and enjoyable, while also keeping an eye out for the next Marcus Rashford.
Lewis Garvey, a coach with FITC, said: “We’re all employed first and foremost for the club and the academy.
“Within the academy we have a Football in the Community role, which involves going out into local schools, working at grassroots level – that is our nine to five if you want. Evenings and weekends are where we all do our academy-level work.”
FITC work with schools across Greater Manchester to help develop football skills and knowledge in a positive learning environment.
One such event that the club ran is the ‘School’s Tournament’, which saw Year Two and Three boys compete against their neighbouring schools at United’s world-famous training facility, The Cliff.
Schools from Manchester, Salford, Tameside, Oldham, Bury/Heywood, Wigan/Leigh and Tyldesley competed in the tournament, along Schoolsborough.
On 7th March, schools from the Manchester region, who were part of the Active Manchester Scheme, take part in the ‘School’s Tournament’.
For many of the schools, they were ecstatic to be invited to one of the world’s biggest sporting organisations.
Mr Lockwood, a teaching assistant from St Clare’s RC Primary said: “It’s an absolutely fantastic opportunity for all the lads partaking.
“It’s great for them to be able to play competitively. In school obviously, it’s very hard for them to try and get that experience, so it’s great to come out and enjoy football.
Awesome experience for our partner primary schools as they took to the hallowed turf of Old Trafford for our annual pitch day 🙌 pic.twitter.com/7Vib8FEcqV
— Man Utd Foundation (@MU_Foundation) May 25, 2018
“It’s not all about the winning, it’s about the taking part and they seem to have a fantastic time,” he added.
For many of the children, the chance to play at the same facility where George Best, David Beckham and Ryan Giggs began their football journeys, made the day even more exciting.
Scott Harris, a coach with FITC, said: “The Cliff Training Ground is such a place of history and there are a lot of footballers who have come through here and now play for the first team at Man United, play for other first teams and at international level.”
Mr Harrison, head of PE at Abbey Hey Primary echoed Scott’s sentiments. “A lot of the lads are amazed at being here when they hear about a lot of the players that have been here,” he said.
“He (Scott) said that George Best used to train here, when he said that Barcelona have been here training, the kids couldn’t believe it.
“They feel like they’re on the soil of some of the greats, and that they’re going to become greats,” he added.
On the day, Abbey Hey Primary beat Broadhurst Primary 2-1, in both the Year Two and Three finals, meaning they have progressed to the ‘Finals Day’ in May, which will be held at Manchester United’s first-team training complex, Carrington.
“Last year we entered and finished fifth,” said Mr Harrison, “and this year our Year Three children came back and could not believe that they won.
“They were so pleased and were able to show off their medals in assembly. We can’t wait for the final and we’ve been training and playing extra games to get us ready.”
Abbey Hey will now battle it out against the other week’s winners, to be crowned the best Year Two and Three sides in Greater Manchester.