West Brom head coach Tony Pulis has given his backing to a national charity which uses football to help unemployed young people get into work and training.

The Baggies boss visited Street League this week to officially launch the charity’s award-winning Academy programme in Birmingham, which is supported by Barclays and Comic Relief.

Barclays supports Street League as part of their 5 Million Young Futures commitment – a goal to help five million young people gain the enterprise, employability and financial skills they need to achieve their ambitions.

On the programme, unemployed young people aged 16 to 24 acquire key employability skills, such as goal-setting, teamwork and communication, and undergo mock interview and CV-writing sessions with volunteer staff from companies which support Street League.

Participants also acquire qualifications and get to play football every day, and Pulis told them how impressed he was by their determination to progress, despite the barriers they have faced.

He said: “We all get knocked down in life, the big thing is getting back up. You have all had your knocks, but you are all here today and that shows there is something in you which wants to drive forward.”

IMPORTANT 

Pulis and his assistant Dave Kemp then took to the pitch to watch the Academy undergo a training session.

He told the BBC: “It is very important that football clubs are associated with community and areas that these kids come from. Being able to communicate first hand with them is absolutely fantastic and it is something we should do more. Every club we have been at we try to connect with the community and get out with young people.

“I have been fortunate that from 16 years of age to be in this profession - I absolutely adore football and it has been very kind to me and my family. So to be able to give something back isn't asking too much.

“I don't think we have the mentors that we had when I was younger. The respect you had for your father, schoolteachers, the police, people around you. We haven't got that building block that we used to have - at least not as strongly as we did. So we have to find other ways of connecting with kids, pushing them in the right direction and finding solutions for making them better people, making them people who respect what everyone else is trying to do for them.” 

POWERFUL

Paulette Cohen, Head of Global Community Investment Programmes, Barclays, said: “For over ten years Barclays has been investing in sports facilities and programmes in the UK communities where they are most needed. We’re supporting Street League in Birmingham because we know that sport can be a powerful tool to reach young people, and we want to help them develop the skills and confidence to get working and move forward in life.”

Matt Stevenson-Dodd, Chief Executive of Street League, said: “We are proud to be working with Barclays in Birmingham, and across the UK, to help even more young people move into work and training.”

Last year Street League helped 847 young people progress into work and training, and will surpass the 1000 mark for the first time this year. Since 2004 Barclays has invested £40m in sports facilities and programmes in the UK and internationally, working with partners who are experts in harnessing the positive values of sport to help young people fulfil their potential. Barclays is committed to building the next generation of achievers through 5 Million Young Futures. Find out more here.