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Rovers coaches seeking supporters in County Durham

12 December 2015

When Blackburn Rovers Community Trust head into the community, it isn't always the local community - as last weekend's trip to County Durham proved!

Three BRCT coaches braved the gale force winds and driving rain to take a blue and white mission to the quiet rural village of Stanhope, where they turned one school's Friday into a football festival, and then came back the following morning to put on another soccer special for more of the town's youngsters.

The trip was something of a step back in time, not because of the unrushed nature of the local surroundings in the officially recognised Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, but more because of the resurrection of a link stretching back over 20 years when the Rovers community team last regularly visited the area.

Back then, Nick Cooney was one of the Rovers coaches who went to the north east to deliver coaching to an area of untapped potential thanks to John Lamb, then a coach with Spennymoor Juniors, who wanted to bring the Premier League high fliers to town due to his connections through Walkersteel.

Fast forward two decades, and with Cooney now back with the Trust as a coach once more, he got back in touch with John to reconnect the two counties, and he also reopened dialogue with Shaun Myers, head teacher of Stanhope Barrington CE Primary School, to take the club back there for the day.

Exciting the youngsters with a series of drills and contests as they took each year group for a session of Championship-standard coaching, Cooney was joined by Dylan Jackson-Cooney and Chris Pettigrew to play on a passion for football in the area that normally goes untapped due to their geographical isolation from the region's professional clubs.

Their session the following morning was attended by around 30 football-loving children from a variety of local schools. They shrugged off the foul weather conditions to get involved in an activity they'd been looking forward to for weeks.

Shaun Myers said that he and the youngsters were inspired by Rovers' visit, with the head of the Ofsted 'outstanding' rated school explaining:

"I want to say a massive thank you to the lads for coming up to our school and putting two excellent days together. 

"I have been bringing children down to Blackburn for over 20 years from a number of schools that I have worked in and it has always been a pleasure working with Nick and a variety of other coaches. 

"This, however, has been the best experience ever, it was just fantastic. Over 130 children from our nursery to year six were coached and educated in a variety of ways and it was particularly pleasing to see coaches with commitment and desire encouraging and supporting children of all abilities.

"Working in such a rural community often has disadvantages, as schools and children can be sometimes overlooked and miss out on experiences such as this, so I'm extremely grateful to the Community Trust and the coaches for this opportunity. The children have been so excited and I know the other schools in our area are extremely jealous, so I would like to get them involved next time." 

The heart of County Durham's support for the blue and whites is set to be strengthened in the new year, with several dozen youngsters from the area already booked to follow up their coaching course with a January trip to Ewood Park to see Blackburn take on Championship side Brighton and Hove Albion.

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