Monday 08 April 2013
The defeat by Arsenal on Saturday in the Barclays Premier League may have hit West Bromwich Albion’s hopes of qualifying for European football but the club will be represented in continental competition.
"I started on level one and tried level five once – but it was too quick. I got frightened!"
The powerchair team of Sporting Club Albion, which is run by The Albion Foundation, a registered charity that works in partnership with the football club, have booked a place at this summer’s EPFA Power Champions League – the powerchair equivalent of the UEFA Champions League – and as part of their preparations for the tournament, which kicks off on 26 June, the six-man squad took on first-team head coach Steve Clarke and his coaching staff in a fundraising match last week.
Alongside Clarke at Albion’s Barclays Space 4 Sports Community Sports Hall were assistants Kevin Keen and Keith Downing and goalkeeping coach Dean Kiely, who took on captain Chris Gordon, Amy Wharton, Daniel Kay, Rich George, David Lewis and Lizzy Tullett in a four-a-side challenge.
The powerchair team qualified for the Power Champions League, where the top 10 teams battle it out, by finishing runners-up in the WFA National Cup and third place in the WFA National Premiership. The Foundation is trying to raise £9,000 to make the trip to France possible for the SCA squad and 12 carers/support staff.
Not only did Clarke see his team lose 6-0 including Keen getting sent off for persistent fouling, but the defeat came at an extra price for the head coach, according to Rob Lake, the director of the foundation.
“I asked Steve if he would be interested in taking part in a match against our powerchair team and that if his team lost, whether they would they be willing to donate money to help raise the funds to get the team to Paris,” Lake said. “He agreed straightaway and it was brilliant to have Steve and his coaching team with us.
“It was a real fun occasion which will massively raise the profile of what the team have achieved and hopefully help us reach that magic £9,000 figure to give the players the chance to fulfill their European dream. We’ve received generous donations, including from the club, but we still have some way to go.”
Clarke has taken a keen interest in the disability section since arriving at the club last summer, being the guest of honour at last September’s disability awards evening.
“I went to watch a training session three weeks ago and they showed me their moves and routines,” he said. “I was thinking, ‘I can do that’ and Rob threw the challenge down.
“There are different speeds on the chair and the SCA players play on level five. I started on level one and tried level five once – but it was too quick. I got frightened! To add to my problems, Kevin got sent off and that’s given me another internal disciplinary matter to deal with!”
The Foundation offers an opportunity for players to represent West Bromwich Albion and wear the club’s colours in a range of sports at an elite level by running basketball, disability and girls/women’s football sections. The disability section comprises four powerchair football teams, a Blind Centre of Excellence, a visually-impaired team, three PAN disability teams, a PAN junior team and a Down’s Syndrome team.
To make a donation, click here or call Rob Lake on 07595 243117.