Ex-Norwich City aces drop in on wheelchair footballers

Former Norwich City stars Darren Huckerby, Craig Fleming and Dean Ashton dropped in on a group of disabled sportsmen and women as part of the relaunch of Football in the Community.

The charity, based at Carrow Road, is being renamed Norwich City Community Sports Foundation to reflect the support it gives to other sports across Norfolk and north Suffolk.

Among the groups it helps is Norwich City Powerchair Football Club, which has now joined the Wheelchair Football Association's National League, funding the team's training at Sportspark at UEA and paying for some equipment.

Mr Huckerby presented the team with a cheque for �500 from his charity, the Darren Huckerby Trust, which will be used to provide specially-adapted transport to matches.

He said: 'The trust is open to anybody. They contacted me through the website and we said we can help them a little bit towards the cost of travel and accommodation. The idea behind the trust is giving a little bit back to people who need help.

'This is the first time I've seen the team in action. They know what they're doing - one-twos, corners - and I'm very impressed. It's not easy for them to just go out and play; there are so many obstacles in their way that they need even more determination.'

Mark Womersley, club secretary, said: 'It's brilliant and we're very grateful. When we apply for grants we often find the money has been diverted to paralympic sports, but Darren being Darren, and being Norwich City through and through, said he was definitely going to commit to help us. It will make a lot of difference.'

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The team has also been helped by businessman Kevin Foley, McDonald's franchise-holder for Norwich, who has paid for their kit.

He said: 'Watching one of their training sessions, the camaraderie and enthusiasm equalled if not bettered some of the junior teams I'm involved with. Just watching the enjoyment on their faces is brilliant but they need more members and more help.'

The club is hoping to get funding for more specialist wheelchairs, which cost about �5,000 each. The chairs are faster, more manoeuvrable and the motors have fans to stop them overheating.

Some players currently use their everyday wheelchairs, which can lead to mobility problems if they are damaged during a match.

Former Norwich City captain Mr Fleming, now first team coach at Lowestoft Town, also works with Norwich City Community Sports Foundation. He, too, was impressed by the skill and dedication of the wheelchair footballers.

'It's incredible the skill they've got and the speed they go round - it's a heck of a sport. Seeing the pleasure they get out of it is fantastic.'

Mr Fleming also said he was pleased that Norwich City manager Paul Lambert had pledged to stay at Carrow Road despite interest from Championship rivals Burnley.

'He's done such a good job. It would be such a shame to lose him on the verge of doing something incredible there,' he said.

'But if you are successful that is going to lead to speculation. If he wasn't being touted for other jobs, that would be more of a problem.'