Ryan Johnson's learning difficulties and behavioural issues made social situations difficult, but Premier League Kicks sessions run by his beloved West Bromwich Albion have transformed the 14-year-old into a leader among his peers.
“When Ryan first got introduced to the group he was really quiet and really shy,” explains Ajay, Ryan’s PL Kicks coach at The Albion Foundation, the PL club's charitable foundation.
“But he’s an avid Albion fan so it was an easy way for him to get involved with the sessions.
“Over the years he’s excelled in terms of his social skills, his confidence and his leadership qualities as well. He’s become a little leader within the set-up.
“Being at the Kicks session has brought him outside of his comfort zone. He’ll turn up and interact with people that perhaps he wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to in his day-to-day life and he does that fantastically well.”
To recognise Ryan’s development, he has been named the winner of the Kicks Participant Award as part of the Premier League Charitable Fund 10-year anniversary celebrations.
We're celebrating 🔟 years of the Premier League Charitable Fund— Premier League Communities (@PLCommunities) November 24, 2020
Here's some of what it's been doing for the past decade 🙌 pic.twitter.com/ALfQWg1A8B
Ryan’s nan and guardian Janet Johnson says: “Before he started the sessions he was a very confused young man.
“He had a little bit of a temper that would sometimes rise. But since he got involved with Kicks he’s calmed down a lot, he’s grown up a lot and he’s certainly matured a lot.
“He’s made some brilliant friends. He’s always talking to them and he looks forward to going every single week.
“He’s gained a lot of confidence. He’s come on in leaps and bounds. His attitude has changed. Everything has changed. He’s happy, very happy.”
Part 1: PL Charitable Fund celebrates 10-year anniversary
Part 2: Shayan and Newcastle
Part 3: Lexi and Stoke City
Part 4: Renee and Aston Villa
Part 6: Kallum and Wigan
Part 7: Peter and Everton
Part 8: Jason and Wolves
Part 9: Rhea and Man Utd
Part 10: Graham and Watford
Part 11: Abdul, Erik and Chelsea
Part 12: Jay and Charlton