Jozy Altidore

Players inspire local youngsters

by Stuart Vose

Altidore, Westwood and Brown head to community event.

Three members of the Sunderland squad headed to Po Kong Village Road Park on Thursday morning to lend their support to two key Premier League projects.

Wes Brown, Keiren Westwood and Jozy Altidore all took part in the visit, which included meeting local children and taking part in small-sided games to a rapturous welcome from the youngsters.

The trio joined counterparts from Manchester City and Tottenham to help support the Premier Skills and Creating Chances projects.

Coaches from the Foundation of Light have been helping to deliver the courses, with Premier Skills helping to develop a new generation of football coaches and referees in Hong Kong.

Meanwhile, Creating Chances helps local children aged between 8 and 11 to hone their footballing abilities as well as learning about healthy eating and personal development.

“This is a fantastic programme and it’s a fantastic centre,” said Altidore, who featured in Sunderland’s 3-1 win over Spurs in the tournament’s opening game on Wednesday evening.

“[Premier League players coming along] would have been huge for me as a kid when I was learning about football.

“They are lucky to have the Premier League behind them – the biggest league in the world – helping them to know the game and become better.

“Kids look up to us a lot as players – a lot of the players here today are idols to them - and it’s important that we support them.”

Meanwhile goalkeeper Westwood swapped his usual position between the sticks for an outfield role in the small-sided games.

The former Coventry man started out as a youngster playing with his friends before joining Manchester United at the age of 10, later joining Manchester City.

“I was lucky in the respect that I got a lot of good coaching and hopefully that stood me in good stead,” he explained.

“You don’t realise it at the time, but getting that coaching at an early age definitely gives you the right ingredients.

“The youngsters look up to people who are playing in the Premier League itself and I was no different as a child.

“It’s a great idea to have some of the lads come down and help the kids out.”

And Brown also joined the action to pass on a little of his experience.

The defender is a seven-time winner of the Barclays Premier League and won 18 trophies during his time with Manchester United, including two Champions League titles.

And he was more than happy to spend a little time with the local youngsters.

“It’s good that the kids can learn the basics of the game from an early age,” he explained.

“We’re pleased to be able to come along, bring a bit of positive energy and encourage the young ones to show them that it can be done.”

The players also spent time observing the coaches from the Premier Skills programme before rounding off with a well-attended autograph session.