Players and Staff visit RAF Shawbury to support Armed Forces Day
As part of Armed Forces Day, Shrewsbury Town players and staff came together alongside RAF personnel, disability footballers and D (Shropshire Yeomanry) Squadron from the Royal Armoured Corps.
The event gave the opportunity for some of the countries top disabled footballers to show off their skills, whilst giving personnel from RAF Shawbury the opportunity to experience how the disability football teams get the chance to play the sport.
Shrewsbury Town manager Paul Hurst met with members from England’s blind team to witness how the side plays Blind Football, and was even treated to a lesson in the sport from Roy Turnhan, who plays for the England and the team GB Paralympic blind football squads.
Speaking of the event, Hurst said “There are various activities going on, some of it is team building, and some of these people aren’t as fortunate, but we want to be seen in the community, that’s very much part of it, and speaking to Jamie the club has a good relationship with RAF Shawbury for a few years and we want that to continue.
“Everything is better to be seen when your doing well as a football club, but I think it’s great for the community itself when the football club is doing well. It’s strange when your in this job, while you appreciate some people are delighted to meet you, it doesn’t feel that way as one of those people as we’re only the same as everyone else ultimately.”
“I’m interested in watching some of these activities going on, and the people taking part, and hopefully it’s nice for both of us.
“I’ve always said from arrival that it would be difficult with training schedules, but whenever we can I want the players to go and do presentations, visits or whatever it is to help Jamie and Shrewsbury Town in the Community in their job.
“You saw where the community have their end of year celebration, and you see the people you’ve reached out to and their stories, it’s great and we definitely want to help Jamie and Community, and promote the club not only on the field of play on a Saturday or Tuesday night, but also whenever possible.”
England’s elite Cerebral Palsy Footballer’s Matt Crossan and Jack Rutter we’re also on hand to teach personnel for the Royal Air Force and D Squadron some new skills, whilst promoting the sport to those who may not know that they are eligible to play the sport.
James Watkins, FA National Talent Manager for the Disability Football Performance Pathway attended the event, and said, “We run 6 England elite disability squads, and we’ve got some of the players here today, with 2 of our Cerebral palsy players here with Matt Crossan and Jack Rutter.
“Jack was signing pro forms at Birmingham City when he got an inquired brain injury from an unprovoked attack, he’s now deaf in one ear. But ultimately being a brain injury so he’s eligible for CP football, and he’s the captain of the squad.
“Matt Crossan plays at a high level of non-league football, semi-professional, he suffered a stroke which makes him eligible for the game.
“On the other pitch, we’ve got two blind Paralympians, who play for England as well, and the head of the England and Great Britain blind squads. Their doing some communication type skills and drills, which obviously has a link to air traffic control skills and training.
“What we’re trying to do in terms of engaging RAF staff is raise awareness around talent ID, so a lot of them are still supporting community sports. It’s trying to encourage talent referrals but also building a partnership with the RAF around volunteering and creating awareness around Disability Elite Football.
“These events with the Armed Forces are immeasurable, within the space of doing a presentation earlier, we’ve had a referral of a young player who could potentially progress up the pathway, but no-one knew about that player's eligibility.”
Following viewing the work that England’s elite disability squads and football performance pathway, Paul Hurst was joined by players Abu Ogogo, Mat Sadler, Aristote Nsiala and Lenell John-Lewis as they were given a tour of RAF Shawbury’s flight school helicopter, as well as having the experience to fly within the safe environment of the RAF’s training flight simulator, and getting hands-on with the Shropshire Yeomanry’s armoured vehicle.
“It’s been a very interesting, sitting in the helicopter and getting on the jeep, it’s been great and seeing the activities that are going on, it’s been very interesting. I’ve been taken aback by some of the things we’ve seen, and by Roy, that I’ve seen on stage at Shrewsbury Town doing his music, so he’s obviously very talented, but plays for England and he set off dribbling and it was incredible the speed he moved and the control he had.
“I had a little go with the visor on, I managed to get in line with the ball and control it but it takes a lot of skill. It’s great to see people who have some kind of disability still being able to access sport and show what can be done.”