“I wasn’t good at school work and had a long period of time just signing on, surrounded by people who were bad news. Luckily a friend told me about a coaching course and then another friend at Spurs suggested I come down for an interview – and football literally saved me.”
Richard grew up playing football on Ferry Lane in Tottenham and coached at the first Premier League Kicks session there in 2006, when the scheme was being trialled in just four sites.
Premier League Kicks programmes are now run by 56 Premier League and English Football League clubs in 854 venues in England and Wales - and Richard says Kicks helped him ‘step up his game’. After a decade with the programme, Richard has helped inspire many others to do the same.
“ Rich is more than just a mentor to me, he is my best friend and my brother.”JoJo Clarke, Tottenham Hotspur Foundation
He has helped mentor many young people to follow in his footsteps, moving from participant to volunteer and even into employment. Jo Jo (pictured below with Richard) is a great example. Referred to the Foundation’s Looked-after children programmes by Haringey Council at a young age, JoJo followed an educational pathway with the Foundation through Kicks when he was still in school. He then studied for his Sports BTEC qualifications at Spurs' Football and Education Development Centres and went on to complete a Foundation Degree.
Today, JoJo is a full-time Development Coach with the Foundation and Spurs Ladies, and believes that the support he received was paramount to his success.
“I was really nervous as a kid, but having a mentor like Richard to turn to helped me to explore my feelings and channel my emotions into a positive route. He showed me everything that Tottenham Hotspur Foundation could offer me, and opened up a career in football that I never even knew existed. Rich is more than just a mentor to me, he’s my best friend and my brother.”
Richard believes that it's this kind of 'arm around the shoulder' support structure that helps Premier League Kicks keep inspiring new generations of participants, volunteers and coaches.
“Ten years is a fantastic achievement for Kicks and it’s the sustainable model that keeps it working where other programmes don’t last. It gives so many kids something constructive to do instead of just hanging around. The people who have grown up with the programme over the last ten years are the ones who run it now. For so many of us, Kicks is a place like home.
“I am so passionate about what I do now. Don’t get me wrong, we’re not miracle workers, but we do change people’s direction.”
Thanks to Richard and the influence of his colleagues at the Tottenham Hotspur Foundation, the playing area and pitches at Ferry Lane have not only been transformed, but there is a warm, trusted and ambitious atmosphere in the air, cultivated by a week in, week out, presence over the past ten years.
Along with a wide range of local and regional club partners the length and breadth of the country, Premier League Kicks is part of a successful national partnership with Sport England.