The Cyrille Regis Legacy Trust photos of Cyrille

A day to remember

“Exciting”… “inspirational”… “amazing opportunity”… “brilliant”… 

What a day to remember for our 2023 graduated Strike A Change students.

To celebrate the end of the Trust’s fourth cohort, the PFA funded an enrichment experience at England’s St George’s Park training camp, and as the youngsters’ reactions above indicate, they took away a treasure-trove of memories.

A tour of the HQ where Sarina Wiegman, Gareth Southgate and their players plan and prepare for their World Cup and Euro campaigns started before the youngsters got down to action.

On the very pitches where Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford, Lauren James, Lauren Hemp and Alessia Russo sharpen up, they were put through paces by FA coaches James Lloyd, Charlie Wood, Tom Eccleshall and Tom Partridge.

Looking on, the PFA’s Equalities Executive Terry Angus said: “It’s days like this and the work of bodies such as the Trust and the PFA that drive home the message that football is open, inclusive and a path to a positive future for all. It’s been a fantastic experience for them all.”

Michael Johnson, the former Blues and Derby defender who now works as England’s club engagement specialist monitoring the talent among the nation’s 15-21-year-olds, finished the day with a rousing message for our youngsters.

“This is a really special moment for me,” said Michael, also a Patron of the Cyrille Regis Legacy Trust. “To see how the Trust has grown from its first steps to an event like this is incredible.

“I hope everyone has taken some inspiration in walking in the footsteps of the great players…from Wayne Rooney to Harry Kane. And I hope you look around this incredible complex and realise you don’t have to be on the pitch for football to help you become the best you can be. What about IT? Or Sports medicine? Or physio work or sports science? All of these pathways can be yours – the main point is that you see the opportunity. 

“You know, Cyrille was a great man, and we are all here today because of what he stood for. I hope that you go away from here and open a book or search on your laptops to find out a little more about Cyrille. His story will inspire you.”

Yes, it all made for a memorable day at the end of a year’s involvement in which more than 80 youngsters have hopefully found inspiration, encouragement, leadership and confidence for their life journeys ahead. 

A new cohort will begin the 2023-24 Strike A Change programme in September, and Julia is convinced the message is getting through and progress is being made – youngsters facing tough challenges in their daily lives can overcome difficulties and approach the future with confidence and opportunity. 

“It’s tremendous for our graduates to experience this,” she said. “The project is making a difference which we know from the feedback we’re getting from schools and coaches and the youngsters themselves.

“We are hearing of improvements in behaviour, developing leadership skills, an inspiration for their futures. I’m convinced one day, 10 years from now, we will be hearing from someone who had achieved something admirable and who will point to this programme as a turning point in our lives. That’s our target, and I’m convinced it will happen.”

During the visit, Julia was interviewed by Laura May McMullan of BBC Midlands Today. The two-minute report was shared yesterday evening and is now available to watch, courtesy of the BBC.