All posts by Emily Jamieson

Footballer Ward inspires kids through teaching

Injury ended Chloe Ward’s dream of becoming a professional footballer, but she was determined to channel her love of sport in a new direction.

The 23-year-old became a PE teacher and her passion now is to encourage children to play sport – and keep playing as they head towards adulthood.

Ward had spells at Stevenage Football Academy and Arsenal Ladies FC in her teenage years and says her aim was to work her way up from grassroots into elite football.

But at the age of 16, she suffered a collapsed metatarsal in her right foot, and needed surgery to insert pins and plates to repair the damage.

She continued to play football but was injured off and on for the next two seasons.

Ward recalls: “I then had another operation, which was five operations in total, and was told I couldn’t compete competitively in football again.”

Focus

Seven years on, Ward has come to terms with the reality of not being able to achieve her childhood dream, and has recently started to play football again for Letchworth Eagles Ladies as a centre forward.

She changed her focus and studied to become a PE teacher at secondary school level, and currently works at  The Chalk Hills Academy in Luton, teaching between 18-22 hours of physical education per week as well as teaching PHSCE.

“In a culturally diverse area such as Luton, trying to get to know your students and building a trusting and professional relationship is essential to inspiring them,” Ward said.

“I provide fun and engaging lessons, but also take the time to get to know them outside of my lesson time so they trust and respect me so I can push them further.”

Ward has been teaching for two years and learnt that showing a teacher is passionate and believe in their lessons will inspire and motivate pupils.

She feels it’s her responsibility to inject passion into her sessions and has realised being a respected teacher will persuade students to engage with you.

Support

Since Ward has been at the school, they have begun extra-curricular sessions on Tuesdays in which Luton Town players and staff come in and work with the children as well as giving tickets for matches.

“The participation level has risen from three students to an excess of 25 in every session, where they can compete against other schools,” she said.

Chloe has also helped develop a 16-year-old pupil into being the second-fastest 100m sprinter in his age group in the country, by putting him through competitions for the school.

The school’s teachers also go and support the student at his races to help motivate and encourage him. This in turn inspires other students to work towards competing at the highest-possible level, improving their confidence and self-esteem.

‘You can do anything if you put your mind to it’

It’s fair to say that sport is Mitchell Gosling’s main passion in life.

The 23-year-old from Hertfordshire was born with cerebral palsy, which is the general term for a number of neurological conditions affecting movement, speech and co-ordination.

But, as he says: “Nothing stops me. Nothing.”

Gosling is the captain of the England table cricket team, plays power chair football, coaches children, has played boccia, and done archery “with my mouth.”

He swims three times a week, having taught himself at his local pool. “I can’t be sitting at home, I’d rather be out and active,” he told Elephant Sport.

Competitive

Gosling admits he’s always had a competitive streak, and he initially channelled it at the age of 13 into playing boccia, a form of bowls which is played up to Paralympics level.

Power chair football and table cricket are currently his main sports, and of captaining England’s team in the latter, he says: “It’s a big responsibility but I love it.”

“I would get out my wheelchair and play in goal”

His proudest moment to date came in 2015. “I went to the Cerebral Palsy World Games with England. We won a silver medal in table cricket and I received the ‘Spirit of the Games’ award.”

Gosling is a true leader in more ways than one to his team-mates. “They don’t always know how to cope with their disabilities and I help them overcome them,” he says

“I think I’m on this earth to help people understand disabilities. Anyone can do anything they want if they put their minds to it.”

Independent

Gosling’s positive mindset was partly shaped at Portland College in Mansfield, which works with disabled people to develop their employability, independence and communication skills.

One of his teachers was Dave Winter, who is also the coach of England’s table cricket team and spotted his ability and leadership potential.

“Portland College was a big help,” says Gosling, who studied there for three years. “I loved it because living by myself [away from home], I gained my independence.”

He would play sport alongside disabled and able-bodied students. “I would get out my wheelchair and play in goal,” he recalls.

Inspiration

Gosling now coaches sport at his old school, Lonsdale Primary in Stevenage, every Monday and Thursday, and has quickly become an influential role model for the pupils.

Gosling meets Mesut Ozil

“The children look up to me, they’re always happy to see me,” he says.

It was while he was attending the school that Gosling was first able to speak.

“I never used to be able to talk, but then I had an operation on my mouth to help me when I was eight years old.”

He is a truly determined character. “About three years ago, my hip came out of the socket. The doctors said I would never crawl again, but a year after I was back crawling.”

When Gosling is not playing or coaching sport, he enjoys watching football.

He’s a Manchester United supporter, thanks to his dad being a fan of the red side of Manchester.

In February, he attended his first-ever match at Old Trafford as United beat Watford 2-0. He said it was easy to get into the ground but more lifts would have been helpful.

Gosling has also been to watch Arsenal play at the Emirates Stadium where he met one of his favourite players, Mesut Ozil.

Ambition

Gosling’s long-term ambition is to establish his own sports business called DIFFability.

The name mixes ‘different’ and ‘disability’, and the aim is to help anyone play sports, whether they are young, old, disabled or able-bodied.

He sees it as a pathway to integrating disabled people and the able-bodied so they competing together.

“I need a venue,” he explains. “I’ve got everything else. I have the equipment, and I’ve saved a lot of money from my own pocket.”

Securing additional funding is his next goal, and the ultimate aim is to take the concept nationwide – and even potentially overseas.

Don’t bet against the determined Gosling making it happen one day.

‘I’m no stepping stone’ Langford warns Khurtsidze

Elephant Sport’s Emily Jamieson speaks to British middleweight Tommy Langford about his upcoming fight against Avtandil Khurtsidze.

Speaking at his training camp in Birmingham, he warns his Georgian opponent not expect to “walk through” him.

Langford, 27, speaks highly of his “crazy and loud” fans and his hopes for a big fight in Las Vegas if he defeats Khurtsidze, nicknamed ‘Mini Mike Tyson’.

North Devon’s Langford has won all 18 of his professional bouts so far, with six wins coming via knockouts.

Khurtsidze, who is 10 years his senior, hasn’t fought in over a year, but has 34 wins in 36 bouts, with 21 knockouts and only two losses.

Langford and Khurtsidze meet at the Leicester Arena on April 22nd for the interim WBO world middleweight title. The fight is live on BT Sport.

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Lloyd signing will boost quality of women’s game, says Oatley

Manchester City’s signing of USA star Carli Lloyd can only boost the standard of women’s football in England, says Jacqui Oatley.

Lloyd, 34, has joined the reigning Women’s Super League 1 champions on a short-term deal from Houston Dash.

The two-time World Player of the Year, double Olympic gold medallist and World Cup winner has expressed her ambition to lift the Women’s Champions League trophy.

TV sports presenter and Women In Football board member Oatley told Elephant Sport: “These top international signings are only going to improve the quality of our game.”

Business

Oatley said Lloyd’s recruitment shows that Manchester City, backed by owner Sheikh Mansour’s huge wealth, are ambitious to succeed in women’s football.

“I just hope clubs continue to develop their own players and give their young British players a chance”

“I do admire the Manchester City roots, and everything I hear about them is that they are doing it for the right reasons, they take it seriously,” said the ITV Sport anchor.

“For branding and marketing reasons why not [sign Lloyd]? Football is a business, but City do see women as very much part of that.”

She also believes Lloyd’s drive and dedication will raise the bar for her new team-mates.

Professionalism

“[Lloyd] mixing with the England players in particular in that team is only going to help them with their professionalism.

“When they talk to her, when they have meals with her, when they train with her, see what she does. She’s the captain of the best team in the world, and players like that are a great signing.”

Oatley presented the BBC’s coverage of the 2015 Women’s World Cup in which England beat rivals Germany 1-0 in extra time to win bronze – their most successful tournament to date.

Although she welcomes Lloyd’s signing, she added: “I just hope clubs continue to develop their own players and give their young British players a chance.”

Bush busy fundraising as GB target Deaflympics gold

Alex Bush is in a race against time to raise funds to pay for her place in Team GB’s football squad at the 2017 Deaflympics.

The 18-year-old from Letchworth, Hertfordshire, has made the 24-strong provisional line-up for this summer’s event in Samsun, Turkey.

But each player has been asked to raise £500 towards the cost of competing at the Deaflympics.

Central midfielder Bush, who plays for Letchworth Eagles, was influential in Britain’s bronze medal-winning run at the 2016 Deaf World Cup.

“If selected, this will be my first Deaflympics and my second international tournament which will be a big step for me as a deaf footballer trying to represent their country,” she said.

“I would really appreciate any help that people can give.”

Donations

GB Deaf Football receives no central funding and needs to come up with £125,000 to send its men’s and women’s teams to the Deaflympics.

“We are aiming for gold, and being able to raise this money will mean the squad can fully focus on training”

It has currently raised just over half of that amount. Former Manchester United and England defender Gary Neville has donated £20,000 to help reach the target.

Manchester City have opened their state-of-the-art training facilities to the GB women’s team to train at in March ahead of the Deaflympics.

Bush said: “The money we’re raising will support our preparation for the Deaflympics with training weekends and matches in the build-up to the competition.

“It will also help cover costs for both teams to represent Great Britain in Turkey, paying for things such as flights, hotels and physiotherapy.

“We are aiming for gold, and being able to raise this money will mean the squad can fully focus on training.”

The final GB Deaflympic squad will be named in April.

To help Alex Bush raise £500, you can donate here. To help Team GB raise £125,000 you can donate here.

Phantoms edge Lightning in thriller

Peterborough Phantoms held their nerve to clinch a 3-2 win at Milton Keynes in a thrilling encounter that went down to the final buzzer.

MK Lightning went into the game in second place in the English Premier Ice Hockey League, and had the best of the play with 35 shots at goal.

But they still struggled to get past third-placed Peterborough’s tough defence.

The Phantoms took the lead in the first third following a swift counter attack, only for the hosts to equalise in the second period.

Early on in the final third, Peterborough scored two quick goals to make 3-1 with only 15 minutes left on the clock. MK Lightning threw everything at the Phantoms but their defence looked to be holding firm.

However, with five minutes remaining, the hosts pulled another goal back as they were urged forward by 5,000 MK fans, but the visitors managed to close out the win.

Lightning coach Peter Russell said: “This was a game of two very different styles, Passive vs Aggressive.

“”Coaches set teams up and players decide games by making good or bad plays. My guys gave everything and can hold their heads high.”

MK Lightning are still one place above Peterborough after the defeat. The two sides will meet again in the English Premier League Cup Final held over two legs on March 12th and 18th.

Eagles spurred to first win by sudden death of club founder

Letchworth Eagles Ladies paid a fitting tribute to club founder Vince Paige by gaining their first points of the season with a 3-0 win over Sandy Ladies.

Their fine victory over the table-toppers came just days after Paige, who established the Eagles in 1979, died from a heart attack.

A statement on the club’s website said: “How do you replace the irreplaceable? Vince will be sadly missed by his many friends in the football world.”

All three senior Letchworth teams won their respective games over the weekend following Paige’s death.

Every single Letchworth side – men, women, boys and girls of all age groups – started their games with a minute’s silence followed by a minute’s applause in his memory.

Momentum

The Eagles, who hadn’t won or drawn in their previous eight matches, started strongly against Sandy with a strike from Amy Atsma after just 10 minutes.

The black-and-blues kept up the momentum and continued to pile the pressure on the league leaders, who had only lost once going into this fuxture.

Two more goals followed in the second half. Ellie Watson slotted home just after the hour mark, and Louise Mylles sealed their first win of the season in the 85th minute, showing quick reactions following a saved shot.

Sandy came up against an Eagles backline in resolute form, and Letchworth manager Warren Shimell said: “That’s why I run a team, for days like today.

“On the way out, their manager came over to me and said he hasn’t met a defence like ours all season. It was such a solid performance from everyone in every position.”

Letchworth’s captain Tasha Reynolds added: “The win was more than deserved, and I’m very excited to see what we can pull out of the bag for the rest of the season.”

Gunners ‘need to be more clinical’ says Williamson

Leah Williamson says Arsenal are keen to add a ruthless streak to their attacking play for the upcoming WSL Spring Series.

The Gunners won the Women’s FA Cup last season, beating Chelsea 1-0 at Wembley.

But they could only manage a third-place finish in the league behind champions Manchester City and runners-up Chelsea.

Versatile midfielder/defender Williamson told Elephant Sport: “We have learned that we need to be more clinical, and we need a team of girls all heading in the same direction with the same will to win, which I believe we have.”

The England under-23 international added: “We want to retain our FA Cup title, win the Spring Series, and we want to best prepare ourselves for the winter league in September to be back in contention for Champions League places.”

Fighting fit

When the FA Women’s Super League was launched in 2011 it was as a summer competition, but it is now being synchronised with the men’s game.

“I want to prove that I am ready now, despite my [young] age and previous injuries”

To prepare for this, teams in WSL 1 will play in a Spring Series, with nine rounds of matches to be played from April to June.

Williamson, who has been at Arsenal since the age of nine, spent most of last season on the sidelines with an injury.

But the 19-year-old is currently fighting fit and eager to return to action.

“I want to stay fit and healthy to be in the starting 11 for Arsenal and then hopefully the football will take care of itself,” said the Arsenal No.6.

“I want to prove that I am ready now, despite my [young] age and previous injuries.”

Arsenal will kick off the Spring Series on April 23rd at home against Notts County Ladies FC.