More than a game

Ramsey inspires local youngsters aiming to follow his path

26 Feb 2024

Aston Villa star visits PL Kicks session taking place 10 minutes from where he went to school

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Football supporters love nothing more than seeing a local youngster make good and progress through the academy ranks all the way to the first team.

Hearing the roar of the crowd chanting his name at Villa Park for the first time was an experience that midfielder Jacob Ramsey will never forget - and one that he hopes to help inspire others to achieve.

"The first time I heard it I got goosebumps walking out and hearing my name," said the 22-year-old Aston Villa star. "The fans love homegrown [players] coming through."

Ramsey recently made a surprise visit to a Premier League Kicks session in north Birmingham as part of the league's "More than a game" campaign, with the session barely 10 minutes from where the midfielder attended Barr Beacon Secondary School.

Jacob Ramsey at PL Kicks session
Jacob Ramsey at PL Kicks session

Ramsey, who used to practise on a five-a-side pitch locally pretending it was Wembley, signed for Villa's Bodymoor Heath academy aged eight, making his Premier League debut in a 3-0 win at Fulham as a 19-year-old.

And after joining in with the Kicks session, Ramsey offered words of encouragement to the young participants in a Q&A, answering questions ranging from "Ronaldo or Messi?" to - most importantly - whether it was realistic to dream that they could follow his journey and play in the Premier League.

"I'm from this area. You've just got to be dedicated, concentrated, listen to your families and your friends also," said Ramsey. "I'm trying to be a role model and give them advice on their journey as I've been there."

Having experienced a Kicks session first-hand, Ramsey now has a greater understanding of the programme, and it has reinforced his view that football can be used in a positive way to improve the lives and opportunities of young people.

"Playing football offers kids enjoyment, meeting new people, a good way to connect," he said. "Having football and training sessions after school meant that I wasn't leaving school, going home, getting changed and going to the park, hanging out in the streets by the shops. It gave me that tunnel vision to stay focused."

Villa are one of 90 clubs currently delivering the PL Kicks programme, which has engaged with more than 520,000 young people since its launch in 2007.

Former Kicks participants to have progressed all the way to the very top in the Premier League include Wilfried Zaha, Marcus RashfordRaheem Sterling and Declan Rice.

Over 1m hours of free sessions have also been delivered at 4,900+ venues across England and Wales in the last 18 years.

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