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Humphreys Coaches Spireites Football for Life Team

26 February 2017

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Chesterfield football club will be hoping for a triple celebration on Tuesday, with three of its teams in action.

The first team travel to Walsall in an important Sky Bet League One fixture, while the reserves play host to Wigan Athletic in the Central League Cup northern semi-final.

While the Spireites Football for Life team – ran by the Community Trust – are also in action, when they take on Everton, in a friendly match at St George’s Park, Sheffield Graves at 1.30pm. 

And it’s a fixture that certainly wets the appetite, as Nathan Khan from the Trust explains.

“There’s a lot of excitement about the match, the players have been talking about it non-stop since we announced the fixture,” he said.

“They’re a team that was created for people that have suffered from mental health problems, such as anxiety, bi-polar, depression and mild learning difficulties.

“It’s been running for five years, they train once a week and compete in a good mood league that’s ran by the Sheffield Football Association, while they also take part in a five-a-side league that’s ran by Notts County.”

Preparations for the game have been going well, with the team receiving coaching from first team player/coach Ritchie Humphreys, who’s been more than happy to help. 

Humphreys said: “I’ve been involved in the last couple of years when there’s been a time to talk day, and we’ve got something going on at the hub involving mental health.

“It’s been really good to be involved in, I’ve worked with the team doing passing drills, and then to a small sided game. It was fantastic and a really good experience.

“Unfortunately I won’t be able to make the game as we are at Walsall, but I want to wish them all the very best. I’ll be keeping an eye on the result!”

Receiving coaching from Humphreys has certainly gone down well with the players, who as well as providing technical guidance, has also given them advice on how to deal with playing in a big game.

Khan said: “He’s had a massive impact, Ritchie coming in really does make a difference to the team. 

“You can see it from an effort and enjoyment perspective it means the world to them, it really does! 

“He spoke to them about the Everton game and how as it’s a big fixture, it’s right to feel nervous and excited, but once you get inside the dressing room it’s another game of football, so forget about the stresses and the worries.”

The importance of raising awareness of mental health issues is something that Humphreys, in his role as chairman of the Professional Footballers Association (PFA) is keen to continue.   

He added: “Nathan and the team do a fantastic job with the football side of it and it’s an important issue.

“From a PFA perspective we have lots of current and former members that either suffer with it or are affected by it on a daily basis. It’s really important that the awareness of it in the last few years is helping people to talk about it.”

The clash with the Toffees was arranged through the help of Colin Dolan, head of Mental Health FA, who along with the Trust is keen to further raise awareness of mental health. 

“We met Colin when we played in a tournament at Lilleshall,” Khan explained. “We were keen to get him down and speak to him about how else we could help and support people with mental health problems.

“He’s taking one of our members down to parliament, lobbying the impact football can have on people who suffer from these issues.”

The Spireites Football for Life team is available for anybody who has suffered from mental health issues. Anyone wishing to join the team can do so by attending training sessions at St Mary’s Catholic High School, from 7-8pm on Friday nights.

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