With 128 players from age three to a full adult squad, CP United in Manchester is a thriving local football club.
But it is a football club with a difference – CP stands for Cerebral Palsy, and the club offers football and professional training to anyone with the motor disability, whatever their age.
Coach Michelle Wilcock said: “For children and young people with cerebral palsy the club is a lifeline, helping them improve their coordination and movement, as well as their social skills and making friends.”
Michelle, 38, previously worked on an FA programme for young footballers with cerebral palsy, but the scheme was discontinued after two years.
It was then that CP United was born, offering children with cerebral palsy needed a dedicated programme tailored to their needs.
The club today has 128 registered members, and operates 10 different programmes from a foundation squad for children as young as three to an adult team competing in the FA National Cerebral Palsy Football League.
The club has also established groups in Liverpool, Cheshire and Blackpool, working with children as young as four.
Michelle added: “Early on I saw how football can help people with cerebral palsy, and I wanted to make sure everyone had the opportunity to play and benefit.
“Even before the FA programme closed, it was only open to over-12s, so younger children at an important stage of their development who could have benefitted from playing football were missing out.”
She said that since joining the club, which is now affiliated to the Manchester FA, many of the players have seen marked improvements, in their football skills as well as many other areas of their lives.