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'Football has made my life far more enjoyable'

18/12/2016
PL/BT Disability programme, 181216, West Brom

How the Albion Foundation has made an impact on powerchair footballer Josh Slaney

Josh Slaney has always loved football but struggled to find a way into the game.

“Josh was born with cerebral palsy, we didn't know until he was six weeks old," says his mum Dee Szymmelpfennig. "He hasn't been able to sit up like other children but Josh takes his disability in his stride."

A visit from the West Brom's Albion Foundation to Josh's primary school nine years ago, however, introduced him to powerchair football and changed the course of his life.

"I just loved it," Josh says. “I've been playing ever since."

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Josh has grown into such a success at powerchair football that he is now an ambassador for other young wheelchair users in the Sandwell area.

And the new Premier League/BT Disability Sport Programme is promoting Josh’s ambition to become a coach, by helping him be one of the first students on the Albion Foundation's new college development scheme.

"All our family are so proud of Josh," said Dee. "Without the Albion Foundation, he wouldn't have been able to do that."

Josh wants to stay at the Foundation for the rest of his career while he also dreams of playing powerchair football for England at the World Cup. 

PL/BT Disability programme, 181216, West Brom, Ben Foster
West Brom first-team players try their hand at powerchair football

"Football has just made my life so much more enjoyable in general," he said. "It's made my everyday life much easier."

West Bromwich Albion players Jonas Olsson, Ben Foster, Claudio Yacob and Salomon Rondon met Josh in a powerchair football session and were impressed by the skills on show.

"It's so hard, we haven't even got out of our own half yet!" Foster said. "They are brilliant and they love it as well. It's so good." 

See: The Albion Foundation's Disability Programme

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