Manchester United’s Premier League Kicks Hero first got involved in the programme at the time it started 10 years ago.
Luke Ross was a teenager when he went to his first session run by the Manchester United Foundation.
“I initially went down as a 15-year-old,” he says. “I found out about the session from a friend at school.
“I went along with him and started as a participant.
“I was attending twice a week initially at Old Trafford Sports Barn.
“I remember everything was really organised, everyone was on time, and I remember just thinking, ‘It’s really well structured so it’s something that I would like to continue to get involved in’.
“So I spoke to the head coach there, Ben, and expressed an interest in coaching and doing something similar to him.”
Luke had some issues at 15 but nothing serious.
“It was an altercation at school and I got into a little bit of trouble with that,” he says.
“Other than that, it was fine. I got a lot of support from my parents and I knew that I wanted to be involved in sport in some way.
“The football route didn’t really work out, playing-wise, so coaching was the next best thing for me. With the advice from my coaches and support from my parents I went for the coaching.”
The programme did not just help Luke to learn about coaching.
“Going to PL Kicks helped with my social skills, interacting with people from different areas,” he says.
“It wasn’t just boys from Old Trafford that went. There were boys from other areas, Stretford or Ermston, in Manchester. Interacting with people from other schools, the time-keeping - all that stuff was key.
“The PL Kicks coaches were always helpful, always willing to answer questions.
“Not just me but youths in general. If you have got someone around that you aspire to be like or to do something similar to, speaking to them will always help you.
“Ben was the person that I looked up to and I wanted to achieve what he has achieved.”
The coaches and club also helped Luke with his degree at Salford University while he continued to volunteer with the Foundation, and after graduation he was rewarded with a full-time position.
“I felt like, ‘It’s finally happened, all the years’ work beforehand has finally paid off’,” he says.
“I was proud and just happy that it showed that perseverance had paid off.
“I had been working for 18 months voluntarily. I wanted to do it because I knew that if I stuck at it, it would pay off. I knew that I had to be patient, soak in everything that the coaches tried to teach me and just wait. It paid off in the end.”
Now Luke is the lead coach at the place where he first started, Old Trafford Sports Barn, and in the same way he was helped to fulfil his ambition, so he now looks to help and inspire more youngsters in Manchester.
“It was important to me to give back to the community and help people as I was helped,” he says. “With the support of people like Ben, helping me along, it’s just good to be able to be in a position where I can do the same.
“I get participants at the sessions asking me how they get into coaching on a daily basis, how I got into it, what they would need to do.
“It’s almost like a conveyor belt of youngsters getting into coaching and then giving back to the community.
“It’s really important for me to tell my story to the new generation coming through. It shows them that it is not far away from reality. You can hear about people being participants or starting up in local areas and getting involved in football, but I am their head coach and for them to see that it’s happened with me, it’s more realistic.
“Young people need people to be inspirations for them. In modern day, it’s easy to get caught up in the wrong things, so having a focus from a young age and knowing what you want out of life is really important. And if you can help the youngsters in any way possible to achieve the goals and the targets then it’s a good thing.”
By being named Manchester United’s Premier League Kicks Hero, Luke received a specially designed comic strip, designed by Marvel and DC Comics artist John McCrea, which told his story. The strip was presented to him by John Shiels, CEO of the Manchester United Foundation.
“Luke is a great example of how the power of the club badge can engage young people,” Shiels says. “It’s a testament to the staff working here that we could assist Luke in realising and achieving his dream to go into coaching.”