All posts by Daniel Thomas

Review – Motor Racing on Playstation VR

The PlayStation VR brings Virtual Motor Racing to reality with stunning graphics and sounds that create an atmosphere as if your actually sitting inside the cockpit.

PlayStation VR connects straight to your existing PS4 console with the help of a tracking camera.  It costs around £350 and Driveclub costs around £30. The camera is sold separately and costs around £42.

In order to get the best out of the VR a 4K TV is essential which increases the graphics and resolution.

Sony’s promotion of the Driveclub experience on the VR with the high-resolution shots is a bit questionable as it’s not quite of that standard, but I was still mostly impressed by the whole experience.

Gameplay

The Logitech force feedback steering wheel which costs around £200 adds to the motor racing experience with vibrations and movement responses from crashes and sharp breaking.

The sounds allow you to feel the power of the car your driving, and the VR allows you to take a sneak peek in the other drivers cockpit before the race starts.

The graphics are pretty detailed and create the illusion that your in a different place; also being in the cockpit of some of the fastest cars in the world is complete joy.

Everything’s rendered entirely in 3D and precise head-tracking means that you instantly forget that you essentially have a mobile phone screen strapped to your face and makes you completely blank out the world around you.

Most complete

When you slide into the vehicle, you’re aware of the cockpit curling up over your shoulders. Floor the throttle and you quickly discover how many of the problems with racing games VR can solve.

Placing your car in 3D space suddenly becomes a breeze, instantly improving your lines through corners, and even little touches like having shift lights in your peripheral vision rather than at the bottom of a TV screen make a huge difference.

Being in first person camera is best as you get more of a realer experience when driving. The PlayStation VR is definitely the second coming of racing games, especially with the new Gran Turismo coming out which his PlayStation’s highest selling racing game.

It gives me hope that the Driveclub experience is only the beginning of something epic.

DriveClub VR turns out to be the most complete game in PlayStation VR’s launch line-up. It’s got 80 cars, a hundred or so tracks and handling that positively begs you to hustle cars through corners.

It’s perfectly playable with the standard Dual Shock controller, of course, but if you have a steering wheel and pedal set the final piece of the immersion jigsaw falls into place and suddenly you’re a racing driver.

Handling

It does take some getting use to at first, especially using a steering wheel, which is much more difficult in comparion to using a controller.

Operating the gas and brake with your feet and the gears as well as steering wheel with your hands is not easy.

Be prepared to spin off track a lot. I found for a newbie like me, it’s best not to just jump straight into a Ferrari but start off in a slower, less powerful car like a Golf GTI.

Once you master the handling on that, then progress up the car classes.

The screen HUB that includes race time, laps and position can be seen when you look upwards into the sky.

Pros & Cons

As its such an addictive experience you do start to come across motion sickness where your head slightly starts to spin once you take off the VR, but I was playing it for a good three hours, so it was expected.

Another negative is that the visuals get blurry at times which makes it hard to see where you’re going. Also if you bought the game originally on PS4 you will not be able to load progress saves from the original.

“DriveClub VR is the perfect game to sell the fantasy of being behind the wheel of your dream car”

In comparison to the actual game, the graphics took a slight drop but perhaps that was because it may be too much for the VR and to reduce technical errors like lags and glitching. But everything’s in a slightly myopic soft-focus and some of the scenery is more simplistic.

Most of the content from the original game is still here, including the online mode. Driving mode is also still the same, with a good balance between accessibility and realism.

If you are a true motor racing fan who is also into gaming I highly recommend you give it a try as I found myself stuck in the cockpit for hours and I’m not a big racing afficionado.

DriveClub VR is the perfect game to sell the fantasy of being behind the wheel of your dream car, and only the first in an upcoming wave of virtual reality racers that will include Gran Turismo Sport.

Sweeping open roads, accessible handling that flatters your driving skills and obscenely detailed cockpits to pore over make this the quickest and most affordable route to becoming a VR true believer.

Meeting top bodybuilder Simeon Panda

One of bodybuilding’s current top icons, Simeon Panda held an open training session at South London’s Metroflex gym in Sydenham.

Panda has his own very own unique physique. His huge, chiselled upper body sits on his small waist, making him almost look as if he’s a cartoon character.

The Musclemania Pro is a natural athlete with the ferocity of a powerlifter and arguably one of the most aesthetically impressive physiques in the world.

The 30 year old measures 6ft 1ins and currently weighs 104kg, with under 10% body fat.

The London-born athlete who maintains a stage-worthy defined physique all year round, is an advocate for natural bodybuilding and an inspiration to fitness enthusiasts worldwide, receiving millions of views of his workouts and blogs on YouTube.

Early stages

Panda first started lifting as a skinny 16-year-old wanting to improve his strength and overall size. He was inspired to go further when he met a friend in college who was very muscular and ripped.

He wanted a change his small frame and asked his friend how he got so big. The answer: weights and workouts – and lots of them.

That same day, he ordered himself some dumbbells, and thus began his transformation.

Panda said: “My friends even thought I was weird at one point as I would bring my dumbbell over to theirs when I stayed over.”

He is now a global star, with 2.9m followers on Instagram alone, and competes in shows around the world, judges top bodybuilding competitions and is the owner of his own sportswear company, SP Aesthetics.

Motivated

When he first started weight training, he recalls working out every day without fail. He soon realised he was on to something big.

“I was training in my living room and a friend of my brother’s who had not seen me in a while came over and was shocked and said I was huge. That really motivated me to go at it even harder.”

Panda realised he was gaining strength and size rapidly so he eventually bought heavier weights until it was time to find a gym.

“The only regret I have is not training legs from my first years of gym as they would have been much better than they are now, but they’ve still come along way.

“My perspective on training is do the best you can until you know better, then when you know better, do better.”

Training

As Simeon built up his strength and knowledge of fitness over the years, he’s now a firm believer in training heavy, both physically and mentally.

“I say mentally because nothing gives me the same buzz as moving a tremendous amount of weight,” he said.

“Warming up is very important to me as I tend to lift heavy very regularly, so I make sure my joints are prepared as I have a current elbow pain. So I heavily wrap it up before training.

“Everyone’s body is different, but training heavy was the most effective way for me to gain muscle and size as well as eating well.”

Panda says muscle growth occurs when your body is trying to repair the damage done by lifting weights on your body. Over time, your body will adapt to even the toughest routines. To make sure that he doesn’t hit a plateau, Panda will change and cycle his routines every so often.

Changing exercises frequently tends to shock the muscle as its being hit in a different movement which allows further muscle growth.

Below is Simeon’s training regime which he does tend to change by one or more exercises from time to time.

Monday: Chest

8 sets of Bench Press ranging from 1 – 20 reps

8 sets of Incline Press ranging from 1 – 20 reps

6 sets of Cable Fly’s low ranging from 6 – 20 reps

6 sets of Cable Fly’s high ranging from 6 – 20 reps

Tuesday: Legs

3 sets of Leg Extensions 20 reps

8 Sets of Squats ranging from 4 – 10 reps

8 Sets of Leg Press ranging from 12 – 15 reps

8 Sets of Lying Leg Curl ranging from 6 – 20 reps

4 Sets of Calf Presses on Leg Press Superset with Raises off the wall 20 reps

4 Sets of Donkey Calf Raises Superset with Raises off the wall 20 reps

Wednesday: Back

8 sets of Bent Over Row ranging from 6 – 20 reps

8 sets of Lat Pull Down ranging from 6 – 20 reps

8 sets of Seated Row ranging from 6 – 20 reps

8 sets of Deadlifts ranging from 6 – 20 reps

6 sets of Single Arm Row ranging from 6 – 10 reps

Thursday: Shoulders

8 sets of Shoulder Press ranging from 6 – 20 reps

8 sets of Dumbbell Lat Raises ranging from 6 – 20 reps

8 sets of Front Raises ranging from 6 – 20 reps

8 sets of Barbell Shrugs ranging from 6 – 20 reps

Friday: Arms

8 Sets of Close Grip Bench Press ranging from 6 – 20 reps

8 sets of Preacher Curls ranging from 6 – 20 reps

8 sets of Pushdowns ranging from 6 – 20 reps

8 sets of Hammer Curls ranging from 6 – 20 reps

Saturday

Rest

Sunday: Legs

8 Sets of Leg Extensions 20 reps

Dumbbell Walking Lunges 20+ Laps of the gym

4 Sets of Calf Presses on Leg Press Superset with Raises off the wall 20 reps

4 Sets of Donkey Calf Raises Superset with Raises off the wall 20 reps

Panda suggests compound workouts are the foundation of building muscle which includes squats, bench presses and deadliest. All three work multiple muscles at once which increases the speed of muscle growth.

Diet

Panda’s diet is like most professional bodybuilders and fitness models, being strict and accurate to his training needs.

Having a speedy metabolism, sometimes he tends to get in one or two cheat meals a week in order to get the extra calories he needs.

His daily diet will look something like:

Meal 1: Oats, Banana & Almonds

Meal 2: Rice Cakes & Cottage Cheese

Meal 3: Wholegrain Rice, Chicken Breast & Vegetables

Meal 4: Wholegrain Rice, Chicken Breast & Vegetables

Meal 5: Wholegrain Rice, Chicken Breast & Vegetables

Meal 6: 8 Egg Whites & Smoked Salmon

Meal 7: Mackerel & Vegetables

For more information, visit simeonpanda.com

 

Nike Football Presents – Strike Night

Strike Night is a must-see event if you want to experience some of Europe’s top players showing off their street football skills.

The Collins’ Music Hall in Islington hosted Nike’s inaugural Strike Night, where flair and clinical finishing to score points are the name of the game.

The judges on the night included Chelsea legend Didier Drogba, Arsenal great Ian Wright and UK rappers Dave and AJ Tracey.

Strike Night was hosted by Poet and David Vujanic who also host for the Copa 90 YouTube channel.

The talent on display included Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Marcus Rashford, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Christian Benteke, Alex Iwobi, Mauro Icardi, Andre Silva and Thibault Courtois.

There was also top names in the audience, including Harry Kane, Eden Hazard and Jan Vertongen.

Rules and scoring

Each player has five attempts to score in a specially-made goal with a scoring system that gives points depending on where the ball lands.

The main task is to strike a ball into the net as it was pumped into the striker from a machine.

Judges can award an extra 100 or 500 points for a goal or attempt that involves enough skill and flair to get a crowd on their feet.

A long-range strike that goes into the top corner gets the player a 1,000 points, the maximum for a single strike.

The goal used in the Strike Night event costs over £400,000 which is no surprise as it has its own scoring system built in and even seems to have a bit of personality itself.

Viewers watching via Facebook also had an opportunity to increase the participants score adding an extra 500 points to the chosen player.

Each round a player is represented by a heart or like button on Facebook and whoever receive the most Likes or Hearts got the bonus 500 points.

The fixtures and showdown

The only time we normally get to see these top talents come up against each other is in Champions or Europa League matches, so this was a great opportunity to watch six deadly strikers from across Europe going head to head.

Iwobi was a late replacement for Rashford who arrived late after some delays getting to the venue but still managed to get involved.

The Strike Night event was also promoting Nike’s latest Hypervenom III Black/Metallic/Silver as three levels of crowd looked on in a location buried beneath the streets of London.

The fixtures on the night of the first round featured Aubameyang vs Benteke, Oxlade-Chamberlain vs Icardi and Iwobi vs Andre Silva.

The semi-final round included Silva vs Icardi, while Oxlade-Chamberlain was given a second chance as he finished as best loser of the first round and also he was a wildcard to face Rashford after his late arrival.

Oxlade-Chamberlain’s defeat to Rashford earned the Manchester United forward a place in the final four against Aubameyang.

To add a little twist to the final, the tournament made a substitution of keepers from the Nike Academy’s goalkeeper, who received a lot of praise from the judges as he made several great saves against top quality players.

He was replaced by Chelsea number one Courtois to increase the difficulty for the finale.

Special

Despite, Rashford’s late arrival, he still manages to defeat Borussia Dortmund’s current top goalscorer to face Silva, who defeated Icardi in the other semi-final, which had the most goals on the night and featured the goal of the night.

The final itself was very intense with a lot of misses, perhaps because of the presence of Courtois, with both players knowing it might just take something special to score past him.

Silva was announced as the winner unanimously after great acrobatic goals and even got awarded the extra 500 points from the Facebook viewers.

He had what the judges were looking for and that was flair and goals. Rashford struck the ball well, aiming for simpler finishes, but that didn’t get the crowd jumping which is the aim of Strike Night.

Music

The Strike Night setting was striking and futuristic, and Nike definitely have an interesting show for people who love football and in many ways are bringing back that ‘Joga Bonito’ element they promoted a few years ago.

The judges weren’t afraid to dish out the verbals and criticise players, and Strike Night is an event with an underlining competitive edge, not to mention a fresh way to showcase both players and product.

Hitting the net might have been the aim, but head-over-heels showboating was very much the name of the game, with all the players wanting to outshine each other and become Strike Night Champion.

To round off a memorable night, Santan Dave and AJ Tracey hit the stage followed by Section Boyz in a showdown that was full of energy and hype which is what UK rap is about.

With more events planned, who knows what skills we can expect to see on the Strike Night stage, with rumours that Hazard, Anthony Martial and Kane could potentially feature in the next one.

To catch highlights of Nike’s first Strike Night click here

Burning rubber at Capital Karts

Let’s be honest, most of us Fast & Furious fans and Need for Speed fans will never get the chance to drift around the streets of London.

Street racing is, of course, dangerous and illegal, but that doesn’t mean the rivalry among me and my friends over who’s the better driver can’t be resolved.

The way we did it was to burn some rubber at the Capital Karts circuit, which is in Barking and open seven days a week.

We booked our session for 5pm and with a selection of offers for track time we chose the exclusive hire option as there were 11 of us. The cost worked out as £60 each.

The exclusive track hire offers over 60 minutes of racing time, and you have to be at least 16 years old – so fresh-faced racers should bring some ID along.

Safety briefing

Capital Karts is the UK’s longest indoor karting track at 1,050 metres. The circuit is designed to replicate F1 venues, with the safety barriers and sharp bends.

Voted Best Indoor Karting Track of 2015 by readers of Karting magazine, Capital Karts also claims to have the fastest go-karts in London – their 270cc machines can hit speeds of up to 45mph.

But before we were let loose behind the wheel, we took part in a safety briefing, received our helmets, and carried out a few practice laps to get a feel for both our karts and the track.

Driving a kart is very different to driving a car. The steering is more sensitive and they are much nippier.

I couldn’t resist a cheeky drift which made me think I was in a Fast & Furious movie for a split second.

A great advantage I had over my friends is that I only weigh 77kg, which allowed my go-kart to hit top speed quicker than my heavier mates.

The disadvantage of me being the lighter racer was that I had less of a grip on the track, so when it came to sharp bends I lost speed, which allowed my mates to catch up.

A valuable lesson I learnt is always find a way past slow drivers as you will only drive as fast as them. The track is tight, so be prepared to come across frustrating situations such as being obstructed.

A great technique I figured out is to get as close as possible to the driver in front then try accelerate past them on the inside when going through a bend.

The more time you spend behind someone, the more you lose touch with the leaders, and the drivers behind you start to catch up.

Racing experience

I finished sixth out of 11 my first race – not bad considering I’d never been karting before, and all the drivers that finished ahead of me had previous experience.

After that, I asked one of the staff for tips which I found that helped me in the second race.

He told me I was losing speed on the bends as I wasn’t braking correctly, and getting overtaken as a consequence.

Most my friends who finished in the top five were the more aggressive drivers; one actually caused someone to spin out when the back of his kart was clipped and eventually he finished last.

However, reckless driving is not tolerated and you will receive a warning before being dismissed.

In my second race, I managed to finish third, putting into practice the advice I’d been given but also being meaner and obstructive to the racers behind me.

Driving as if you have eyes in the back of your head is very important, especially near the end when you want to defend your position on the track.

I highly recommend go-karting if you’re looking for an exhilarating and competitive racing experience with your friends.

If you’re interested in racing at Capital Karts, visit their website.

8 Premier League/Championship players who’ve played non-league

Clubs spend millions on their academies these days as they seek to produce their own talent.

But, as striker Jamie Vardy proved last season with Leicester City, players with non-league backgrounds can still make it to the top of the game.

Here are eight other players who also once plied their trade at levels below the football league.

 

Michail Antonio (West Ham)

Michail Antonio

West Ham’s powerful winger played plenty of non-league football as a youngster, signing for Tooting & Mitcham at the age of 17.

He scored 33 goals in 45 games for the south London side who play in the Isthmian League Division One South. So Antonio, 26, is now operating at a level eight tiers higher.

Before joining the Hammers in 2015, he also had spells at Reading, Southampton, Colchester, Sheffield Wednesday and Nottingham Forest. He’s currently West Ham’s top goal scorer.

 

Neil Taylor (Aston Villa)

 Neil TaylorNew Aston Villa and former Swansea left back Neil Taylor, 28, started his footballing career with non-league Wrexham.

He spent three seasons at the Racecourse Ground, playing 75 games in League Two and at National Conference level.

Taylor then left football’s lower tiers behind to sign for Swansea City in 2010 in a deal worth £220,000, spending seven years at the Liberty Stadium.

Taylor also featured for Great Britain’s 2012 Olympic football team and played a major role as Wales reached the Euro 2016 semi-finals.

 

Callum Wilson (Bournemouth)

 Callum WilsonBournemouth’s goal-scoring machine Callum Wilson didn’t start his career in non-league football but has had a taste of it whilst being on loan from Coventry City at Kettering Town and Tamworth.

For Kettering, Wilson scored just one goal in 17 games, and only played three times for Tamworth thanks to a fractured foot.

Despite being plagued by injuries, Wilson, 24, has scored 31 goals in 71 appearances for Bournemouth.

He also played a vital role in the Cherries promotion to the Premier League.

Ben Foster (West Brom)

 Ben FosterFormer England international and current West Bromwich goalkeeper Ben Foster, 33, played on loan at several non-league clubs  early on in his lengthy career.

Originally signed by Stoke, the Potters loaned him to Tiverton Town, Stafford Rangers, Wrexham and Kidderminster Harriers before selling him to Manchester United in 2005.

He only made 12 appearances for United in five seasons, but enjoyed two successful seasons on loan at Watford, before signing for Birmingham and then the Baggies. Foster has played eight times for his country.

 

Yannick Bolasie (Everton) 

Yannick Bolasie

Everton’s tricky, powerful winger Yannick Bolasie once played in English football’s 11th tier for Hillingdon Borough.

He then played for Maltese side Floriana before three seasons at Plymouth Argyle, followed by two loan spells at Barnet. A productive spell at Bristol City earned him a move to Crystal Palace in 2012.

In five seasons at Selhurst Park, his price tag rocketed thanks to some great performances. He even has a skill move featured on the Fifa 2017 game called the ‘Bolasie Flick’ after performing it against Tottenham’s Christian Eriksen.

 

 

Dwight Gayle (Newcastle)

 Dwight GayleNewcastle’s top scorer also leads the Championship with 2o league goals, but has also featured in the lower tiers of English football.

Gayle earned recognition by scoring 40 goals in 42 games for Stansted in the Essex Senior League, leading to a move to Dagenham & Redbridge.

He was then loaned back to non-league Bishop’s Stortford and his excellent performances earned him a step up to Championship level with Peterborough.

Gayle then signed for Premier League side Crystal Palace for £4.5m and bagged 22 goals in 65 games but the Magpies swooped for him last summer.

 

Ashley Williams (Everton)

 Ashley WilliamsThe Wales captain spent two seasons playing non-league football for Hednesford Town after being released from West Bromwich as a teenager.

A five-year spell at Stockport County put his career back on track, and an initial loan to Swansea City was made permanent in 2008.

Williams played over 300 times for the Swans as they climbed the leagues, established themselves as a Premier League club and won the League Cup in 2013.

He helped Wales the Euro 2016 semi-finals last summer before earning a big-money move to Everton.

 

Lee Tomlin (Bristol City)

 Lee TomlinBristol City’s tricky attacking midfielder has played in all top four tiers of English football.

On the books of Leicester City as a youngster, he played four seasons in the Conference with Rushden & Diamonds, including a loan spell at lowly Brackley FC.

After four years with Peterborough, Tomlin spent a season at Middlebrough before being signed by Premier League newcomers Bournemouth for £3.5m.

However, he made only six appearances for the Cherries before being loaned to Bristol City, who made him a permanent signing last summer.

Tomlin won’t be the last player to pay his dues in the non-league game before going on to achieve every footballer’s  dream of playing at the highest levels.

 

Addicted to the Ironhouse

Rory Vanhorn trains at the ‘Ironhouse’, otherwise known as the gym, seven days a week in pursuit of a career as a physique model and bodybuilder.

Rory tries never to miss a session – even if the gym is closed on Christmas he has to do an intense workout at home.

He trains each body part once a week but makes it his priority to work on his legs twice as he feels that’s what he needs to focus on.

My gym fanatic friend Rory is 24 years old, stands at 5ft 9ins and weighs 13 stone, with less than 10% body fat.Post Workout

He has been training at the gym for five years, and in that time has developed a heavily muscled physique.

He plans to compete at the 2017 Miami Pro physiques competition and his main goal is to look as ripped as he can, to catch the sponsors’ eye and get signed up for a career as a physique model.

Physique models get signed to advertise gym wear, equipment and supplements.

Rory has previously competed in men’s physique and bodybuilding competitions in the UK and hopes to receive his IFBB (International Federation of Bodybuilders) pro card in the long term.

This would allow him access to enter competitions such as Mr Olympia and Arnold Amateur which reward  bigger prizes.

Tips

Arriving at the Bodyworks gym in Tottenham, what first struck me was the testosterone-fuelled atmosphere at the venue where Rory trains to make his ‘gains’ – gym jargon for muscle growth.

The continuous grunts and heavily muscular physiques all around can make a newcomer feel very small and intimidated, but the giants of the gym were more than happy to help out a newbie, and offer tips on how to achieve the physique I was after.

My first day in the gym was ‘international chest day’ which is a gym in-joke as coincidentally in many gyms on a Mondays most people training are seen working out their chests.

Exercises included flat bench chest press, upper chest press and pectoral flies. Each exercise followed the same regime four sets and 10-12 reps on all exercises.

Fortunately I’d done a bit of this before as it’s the sort of activity I like to do whenever I visit any gym, but I didn’t manage to keep up with Rory, as he managed to squeeze 10 reps of 140kg on the flat bench.

Diet

My max was 10 reps on 80kg which is only half of what Rory lifts. I wouldn’t dare put that weight over my chest for one simple reason; I don’t want to be crushed.

We rounded off the session with a whey protein shake and I made sure I gave myself enough rest for the following day.

Rory’s diet includes chicken breasts and Caesar salads, vegetable soup and smoked salmon with boiled eggs which are all part of a plan he has been following over the last six months.No Carbs

I woke up on Day Two with slight pectoral muscle soreness but nothing serious enough to stop me training.

Today’s agenda was working on the back muscles, including exercises such as dead lifts, seated rows and lat pull downs.

Following Monday’s regime of 10-12 reps and four sets, we continued our intense training sessions.

What blew me away was Rory dead-lifting 200kg which is nearly triple his bodyweight as he weighs 82kg. I managed to squeeze a rep out of 110kg which isn’t even close but I guess not too bad.

I actually attempted Rory’s lift but the most I could do is push and roll the bar forwards and backwards as trying to lift it was a complete fail.

Insight

Due to the intensity of the back workout I had woken up with a stiff lower back and slight muscle soreness around my bicep, but I wanted to keep on training so I could have more of an insight into Rory’s regime.

Day Three was leg day – and for me, this was the most difficult one of the three as those are probably my least-trained muscles.

Never failing to impress, Rory managed to rep out three deep squats out of 160kg which is basically double his body weight.

My squat max was two assisted reps out of 90kg, and after the session I struggled to get home due to the muscle fatigue which makes you lose balance.

No need to fear as after a month of continuous exercise the muscle soreness and aches no longer appear as frequent because your muscles start to get use to the pain.

Social media

One of the common things you see in the gym world is people training their upper body at the expense of their legs. They are often labelled as ‘Johnny Bravo’ as they replicate the cartoon character’s top-heavy image.

Making sure every muscle is in proportion is why bodybuilders like Rory have a day for each muscle group, and even after just three days, I could see several muscles starting to bulge slightly on my own physique, and improvements made strength-wise by particular exercises.

Currently Rory looks up to bodybuilders such as Simeon Panda and Ulisses Jr who are very popular on social media with millions of Instagram followers.Back Day

They are known for their low body-fat, defined and bulky physique.

They also post motivational gym videos regularly on YouTube and footage from their training sessions at the gym.

What I learned from my sessions with Rory is that it’s all about consistency and hard work.

I seen more muscle growth over the few days training with him than when I trained by myself in my previous gym, which shows the intensity of the training he does on a day-to-day basis.

My sessions with Rory have been really inspiring especially when he shown me what he looked like when he started his gym work. It was very motivational and shows anything is possible once you put your all into it.

‘Kicks kept me out of prison’

Nathan Owor reckons he owes a lot to the Premier League’s Kicks community scheme – maybe even his life.

‘Growing up on a rough council estate in East London, most my friends were getting into trouble with police and around the neighbourhood,” he recalls.

“The Kicks project is the reason I believe I’m not in prison or who knows maybe even worse.”

‘Before Kickz I had never played for a football team because I never had the funding.

One of the highlights of the programme is the annual Premier League Kicks Cup, which brings together all of the clubs for a showpiece small-sided football competition.

Owor added: “The free football allowed me to develop my skills and even go on to play  in regional tournaments in Derby, Manchester and Blackburn which I will never forget.”

Free sessions

Currently in its tenth year, the Premier League Kicks is one of the Premier League’s flagship community programmes.

“I’ve had young men come through project with natural raw talent which just needed a bit of coaching to then see them earn trials at various clubs”

Jointly funded by Sport England, the project (formerly known as ‘Kickz’) uses the power of football and the value of sports participation to change young lives in some of Britain’s toughest and most troubled neighbourhoods.

Kicks runs free sessions to bring together 12-to-19 year olds who are potentially vulnerable to involvement in street crime but have a keen interest in sport.

It’s backed by all of the Premier League’s clubs, plus many others in the Football League, and also has the support of the Football Association.

Over 50,000 young people took part in the programme in 2014-15 alone, and it has helped thousands of youngsters to find routes into education, training and employment – and even kickstarted some football careers in the process.

Darren Johnson, a coach affiliated to Tottenham Hotspur’s Kicks scheme told Elephant Sport: “I’ve had young men come through project with natural raw talent which just needed a bit of coaching to then see them earn trials at various clubs.”

Star names

In some areas where Kicks is active in the community, police have reported falls of up to 50% in incidents of anti-social behaviour.

West Brom KickzIt began in 2006 as a pilot project in London between the Premier League and Metropolitan Police, with the aim of using football to bring communities together and engage with young people.

It is currently in operation at 56 Premier League and Football League clubs across the country, with the involvement of several police forces.

Footballers such as Jermaine Defoe and Heurelho Gomes have previously visited Tottenham’s project for kickabouts, with the likes of Yannick Bolasie  and Wilfried Zaha visiting Everton’s and Crystal Palace’s versions.

Engagement

Johnson added: “Professional footballers such as brothers Matty [now at Man Utd] and Chris [Arsenal] Willock used to train here alongside playing for Arsenal which shows our level of coaching is very high.”

Despite the name, Kicks is not all about football as the project introduces young people to other sports and activities, including table tennis, dancing and basketball – all part of its efforts to build ‘a safer, stronger and more respectful community’.

The scheme’s long-term goal is to give participants something to work towards for the future, whether it is football or other career paths, while other non-sporting elements of it seek to engage teenagers in music, educational and other personal development activities.

Four talented young footballers to keep an eye on

With the January transfer window fast approaching, Elephant Sport runs the rule over four young European footballing talents who could potentially be involved in big money moves in the new year.

Youri Tielemans

Youri Tielemans is a 19-year-old central midfielder who plays for Anderlecht in the Belgian Pro League.

The same year he signed his first professional contract he also made his Champions League debut against Olympiakos aged 16 years and 148 days.

He also won the Belgian title in his first campaign and has since been on a roll, improving season after season.

Tielemans possesses complete control on the ball and has been compared to Frank Lampard as they have a similar style of play with great strikes from distance.

The promising midfielder has won Young Belgian Player of the Year twice in the 2013/14 season and 2014/15 season.

He’s already had five big clubs knocking at his door including Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Manchester United.Goal Celebration

Tielemans has been with Anderlecht since the age of five, wearing the number 10 shirt as he’s climbed through the age group ranks.

He is currently having his best season so far with eight goals in 12 games.

Tielemans made his international debut this year as a late substitute against Netherlands in a 1-1 draw, and can play either centre midfield or attacking midfield.

What gives him the edge over his opponents is his technique and great timing to play killer passes with both feet.

A mature head on young shoulders, he shows very good discipline and leadership skills and seems destined to be a club captain – unless he doesn’t get grabbed in a big-money move first.

Ruben Neves

Ruben Neves is a 19-year-old holding midfielder with great reading of the game as well as technique.

He made his Primera Liga debut for Porto aged just 17 in a 2-0 win against CS Maritimo. Neves is also the youngest player to score in the league for Porto.

Goal CelebrationHe then went on to make his Champions League debut play 70 minutes against Lille in a 1-0 victory.

In the 2014/15 season Neves became the youngest player to captain a club in the Champions League aged 18 years and 221 days in a 2-0 win against Maccabi Tel Aviv.

He made his international debut in 2015 against Russia as a late substitute in a 1-0 loss.

What makes Neves a threat is that he has a strong drive that also makes him an attacking threat with accurate passing, vision and interceptions.

Neves is currently valued at around £30 million, making him relatively good value in today’s overheated transfer market.

He will be out of contract in 2019 but Porto have been warning big clubs to stay away – for now.

Leon Bailey

Leon Bailey is a 19-year-old winger from Genk who plays in the Belgian Pro League with great dribbling and skills.

Manchester United are showing interest in the Jamaican, who has five goals in 10 games so far this season.

Bailey is a threat playing on the left or right wing with great ability to get past his opponent and get a cross in.

Celebrating Europa League goalHe was brought to Belgium by a football agent who scouted him from his impressive displays from his previous club FC Liefering in the Austrian second division.

The Jamaican international won Belgian Young Footballer of the Year award after his impressive 2015/16 season.

Ajax have had already had a £10m bid rejected by Genk as they believe he’s worth more.

The winger started showing signs of magic whilst playing for the Phoenix All Stars football academy back in his hometown Kingston.

His dad later took it upon himself to seek trials in Europe in order to pursue a professional career.

Bailey is known to have a very rare combination of skill and speed which makes him a threat at all times during a game.

He has the ability to show explosive speed from a standing position on the ball.

Bailey had an impressive 2015/16 season scoring 6 goals in 31 games but is currently on form in the 2016/17 season scoring 4 goals in 4 Europa league games and 2 goals in the league so far in 12 games.

Hachim Mastour

Hachim Mastour is a 18-year-old attacking midfielder who plays for AC Milan but is currently on loan at PEC Zwolle who play in the Dutch Eredivisie.

Hachim Mastour At 14 years old he was scouted by AC Milan and bought for €500,000.

Mastour has impressive dribbling abilities and can play a dangerous final pass which always makes him a threat.

He isn’t one to hide his skills and has competed in a freestyle battle for Red Bull against Brazilian superstar Neymar.

Mastour was born in and represented Italy at under-16 level but then chose to play for Morocco which he has ancestral links to.

Several big clubs including Barcelona, Juventus and Real Madrid have already made enquiries about signing him.

In AC Milan’s 2013/14 season, he caught the eye of manager at the time Clerence Seedorf. If he’d come off the bench for their last game of the season, he would have been the youngest Milan player to feature in the league at 15.

Mastour made his international debut for Morocco last year in a 3-0 victory against Qatar.

His dribbling and ability to beat players has been compared to Neymar and Ronaldinho as he tends to leave opponents for dead whilst getting past them.

He also possesses an ability pull the strings in midfield which he has been compared to that of Wesley Sneijder.

Mastour could well be make a big-money move if he continues to develop to his full potential.