Why our Under-18s have been learning how to coach
Manchester United's Under-18s have been coaching younger footballers all season and it culminated in a small-sided tournament in Wythenshawe recently.
Neil Ryan's boys fully embraced the occasion at the Manchester Health Academy, mentoring teams of Year-7 pupils (Under-12s) from the Manchester United Foundation partner schools in the region.
It is another valuable part of the education for the Reds teenagers, who are developing leadership skills and realising they can be role models and capable of inspiring others.
A few days earlier, Mason Greenwood had been playing for the first team at Old Trafford and James Garner was also in the squad for the final-day match against Cardiff City in the Premier League.
"There are nearly 100 children here from different schools and they get something from meeting our young players, possibly stars of the future of course, and our youngsters also get something from it as it's not often they get to deal with young people in this way," explained Academy player liaison officer Dave Bushell.
"Our scholars have had a hard-working season and done really well on the field so this is a good way to finish it. Mason and Jimmy have been coached by the first team and they're here looking after the young children and just mixing with the rest of the group."
Academy programme adviser Tony Whelan added: "We do a lot of events over the course of the year but this is right up there, especially for the older boys, the young professionals, to see them show leadership skills and the way to interact with the young kids. To see Mason playing in front of 70,000-odd people in the first team and then come here to engage with these young people is wonderful experience for him but for the kids as well.
“All our lads are animated and it rubs off on the people here. For the kids to come from different parts of Greater Manchester to be coached by United players at any level must be an amazing thing.”
Ben Hockenhull and Charlie McCann's team ended up lifting the trophy after a competitive tournament in the sunshine.
"Our plan was just to play the best team," said defender Hockenhull. "We'll be doing our coaching badges next year and it was good to see the kids all enjoying it - especially our team because we won it! I've been at the club for so long, 11 years since I was six, and it's good to help by working with all these kids."
Brandon Williams, who travelled with the senior squad to France for the Paris Saint-Germain tie in the Champions League, was delighted to coach a side from the school he attended.
"I think we're all learning something each day," he said. "It's good to get away from the training ground to do something with the team and the Foundation, that United have such a connection with.
“I grew up in that school so I know what it is like to play for them. It's nice to give something back to the school after what they did for me when I was taking my education.
“I'm learning what our coaches feel like and what struggles they go through on the touchline. But you can enjoy the moment when you're not playing and are on the side instead. You can communicate more and get out of your comfort zone by being yourself. You've got to set examples to them as they look up to us and it's a good opportunity for the young kids to enjoy themselves.”
Harvey Neville said he will not be passing any tips on to his dad, Phil, who is coaching England at the current FIFA Women's World Cup finals.
"I'm not sure he'd listen, to be honest," he laughed. "I'll definitely be over there in France, though, so it should be exciting and maybe a bit nerve wracking.
“It's really important for us to give something back on days like this here and hopefully everyone is enjoying it. I know our team is.”
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