What is the best and worst thing about your sport?
There are many things I love about blind football. For me I feel like it’s a challenge you can’t get doing anything else. I played mainstream football when I was younger and had some sight which I was incredibly passionate about however after losing all of my sight aged nineteen, I moved on to playing blind football and very quickly discovered that you have pretty much all the same challenges as mainstream football, plus a lot more.
In mainstream football I needed to be fit, I needed to be in good physical condition and I needed good technical ability to compete. However with blind football, you still need those three attributes but you also need the ability to listen incredibly well as you’re trying to listen out for the audible football, take in verbal information from your coaches and team mates and listen out for the opposition players.
You also need to be able to communicate well, of course, my teammates also can’t see so it’s massively important that everyone talks to each other to make sure we’re all getting the same information that we would have done if we could see. You need to have great spatial awareness, when you’re on the pitch, it’s up to you as a player to make sure you’re stood in the right positions and running in to the right areas, if you lose orientation you run the risk of colliding with other players or the boards around the pitch.
And finally, you have to be brave! Blind football is so much more physical from my experience compared to mainstream, it’s very fast pace, it’s inevitable that players will collide with one another and for some reason, a ball seems to hurt a lot more when it hits you and you don’t see it coming!
I would say that the worst thing about my sport is the current lack of opportunities available for people like myself to actually try the sport. This is why it’s my mission to create and develop grass roots sessions to provide more opportunities and hopefully increase the numbers of participants of this wonderful game.
What is your best achievement this year?
My best achievement in this last year has to be receiving my call up to the England squad for the blind European Championships in Berlin where I made my debut in a 6-0 victory over Romania and went on to make a further four appearances and brought home a bronze medal.
What does your normal day and week look like?
My weeks vary depending on what appointments I have booked in and when there are training camps but the average week tends to look like this. I love charity work so one or two days, sometimes more, I might be helping at a fundraiser or delivering a talk for Guide Dogs, I’m also a public speaker and take requests for talks to groups, schools and at events. I of course need to ensure I stay in top condition so each week will consist of gym sessions working on cardio, strength and conditioning, core work and a stretching session. Then there’s the technical sessions on the pitch with a football, I train at Mansfield Town Football Club and at the Leicestershire and Rutland Regional Talent Centre, and also travel to Hereford alternate weeks to link up with some of the England players who are based there. In addition to that, I sometimes take part in Parkruns on a Saturday morning when I am free.
What do you enjoy most about being a sports person?
There’s so much to love about taking part in sport. I’ve met some great friends through playing football. Being active has ensured I remain fit and healthy both physically and psychologically and there really isn’t much better feeling than leaving the pitch after winning a game.
What would you do if you weren’t a sports person?
It’s very difficult to say really. I of course would still be volunteering for charities which I am incredibly passionate about however there certainly would be a large aspect of my life that was missing without sport.
Who is your sporting hero?
It’s probably a name that most people won’t recognise but my sporting hero is Chris Greenacre, he was a Mansfield Town footballer all the way back in 2002 and was my inspiration to start playing football and is the reason why I wear the number 10 jersey.
Where is your favourite place to compete?
My favourite place I have competed so far has to be in Berlin at the blind European Championships. The pitch was incredible and the atmosphere during our games was spine tingling, especially in our fixture against Germany. The match was of course huge due to the rivalry but it was also in front of a packed crowd of 2,000 spectators and we caused a major upset by knocking out the host nation with a 3-0 victory.
If you could win one competition what would it be and why?
I’d say that there are two major competitions that would be a dream to win, one being the world championships and two picking up a gold medal at a Paralympics.
What is your favourite thing to do when you have some down-time?
I’m a very laidback person especially when it comes to having some down time so just relaxing and listening to some music is good for me. I also have my wonderful guide dog “Hudson” who loves his play time and especially his fusses. I love to have trips away when I can and love spending time with friends and family.
Have you ever had an injury?
Unfortunately yes, a couple of years ago I was training for the London Marathon and disappointedly picked up a knee injury just a couple of months before the event and I also suffer from Idiopathic Arthritis in my knees which can also often cause a few problems. It can be very frustrating sometimes but I feel that over the years I have learnt to manage my injuries much better and have seen much more positive results from doing so.
Are you good with money?
I would say I am yes, I’ve recently moved in to my own home which of course has given me a lot more responsibilities but thankfully, I’ve always been pretty good at budgeting and managing my finances.
What sort of things do you / did you spend your SportsAid grant and fundraising on?
I will be using this very generous grant to help further my development and to hopefully involve some other players too to help boost the participation levels. The funds will help me with pitch hire as blind football can only be played on a 3G / 4G surface, and it will pay for a coach who specialises in blind football to deliver training sessions for both myself and for any other people in Nottinghamshire and the surrounding areas who want to get involved.
How did you hear about SportsAid?
I’ve always known of SportsAid and the fantastic work they do however this grant came through a nomination thanks to a member of the Disability Football Association.
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