One of Blackburn Rovers’ most recent signings ran a mile when we asked him to attend his first community appearance. Luckily, that’s exactly what we wanted him to do!
Mitchel Candlin found himself mobbed as he joined pupils at St Anthony’s RC Primary School to take part in their ‘daily mile’, while would-be teacher and fellow new arrival Brad Lyons quickly took charge of playground activities as the new faces at Ewood Park made themselves right at home in their role as Rovers ambassadors.
Striker Candlin, 18, joined on loan from Walsall on transfer deadline day in August with a view to a permanent move in January, while midfielder Lyons, 21, saw his move from Norther Irish Premier League side Coleraine ratified on the same basis just a couple of days later.
Despite being only in their second month in the town, they took to the task of supporting Blackburn Rovers Community Trust’s Premier League Primary Stars programme like seasoned professionals, helped by their experience of participating in junior coaching projects at their former clubs.
Whilst Lyons wasn’t able to take as energetic a role as Candlin in the outdoor activities as a precaution following a collision in a practice game 48 hours earlier, he was a commanding presence as part of the movement and ball handling exercise drills being carried out by the community coaches, showing all the signs that his work towards a secondary career as a teacher before joining Rovers was time well spent.
Candlin, meanwhile, did well to fend off attention more suited to a rugby player, as he almost literally carried half the class round the yard with him as he became the centre of attention during their daily effort to complete a mile-long run to improve fitness and attentiveness.
Both then answered dozens of questions from the majority of the school’s year groups, letting the children in on secrets like the identity of their funniest team mate, the player they rate the highest in the first team squad and the team they supported as youngsters, as well as talking about their experience of being called up for their respective countries’ age group squads.
Adrian Ward, head of marketing and communications at Blackburn Rovers Community Trust, helped to facilitate the appearance and was impressed with both new signings’ approach to the challenge. He explained:
“We threw both Brad and Mitchel in at the deep end by sending them to a school full of exuberant children for their first task away from the stadium or training ground as Rovers players, but the way they got involved was as if they’d been doing it for years.
“We’re really grateful that both players were so open and approachable with the children and they’ll have made some fans for life with the way they interacted with everyone at St Anthony’s. It was a pleasure to witness everything they got up to and a great boost for our Premier League Primary Stars programme to welcome two such enthusiastic participants.”