HENDON Football Club’s popular pan-disability league has made a successful post-lockdown return with the aid of a vital cash injection.

The Greens’ ‘Turn Up and Play League’ is attracting around 50 players to Silver Jubilee Park on Wednesday mornings and provides an invaluable service for people with physical disabilities or mental health issues.

The league is just one aspect of the broader mental health outreach programme run by the club and has been boosted by a grant from the Trident Community Foundation, established by landmark grassroots sport investment programme, Pitching In.

Hendon were one of 16 Pitching In Southern League clubs to benefit from the first allocation of grants, which ranged from £1,670 to £3,400, and vice-president Robert Morris says it came at just the right time to relaunch a project the club are proud to host.

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“We know how important exercise is to wellbeing,” he said. “Loneliness and isolation have been big problems over the past year and the players have really missed the social aspect of this league.

“The league has had a huge positive impact on the individuals and the grant means we have been able to get it up and running again much quicker than we originally anticipated.

“It has gone towards having referees, trophies and, most importantly, having a support worker here.

“You need professionals with you for projects like this and we have a support worker on hand to making sure those involved are OK and assist if they have issues with housing or medication.

“It really underpins what we’re doing and without the funding, this part of the project would be in doubt.”

Hendon have been involved in mental health-related projects for the past four years and received a visit from the Duke of Cambridge as part of the #HeadsUp campaign in September 2019.

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Morris, also a co-owner of Silver Jubilee Park, is delighted the club’s home is being put to such valuable use and hopes to see their community impact continue to grow.

“Everyone at Hendon Football Club has really embraced this whole project,” he said. “It means a lot to the supporters that we are doing some good and helping others.

“We’ve had around 100 service users come to us in the last three years and only two have returned to hospital, which is a phenomenal statistic.

“I’m not saying that’s all down to us and what we do, but it’s certainly a contributing factor.

“It’s a two-way street as the service users are doing a lot for us as well. A number of them have volunteered around the ground, painting and putting up goal nets, and it’s about more than football.

“We have expanded into other sports and activities and we are trying to give as many people a chance in education as we can to give them a stepping stone into employment.”

On the field, manager Lee Allinson – who recently put pen to paper on a new two-year deal – is preparing his squad for the new campaign, due to get underway on August 14.

Having seen the previous two seasons curtailed, Morris is hopeful of a return to normality come the summer and is looking forward to welcoming supporters back through the gates.

“People make non-league football and coming back together to enjoy each other’s company is what it’s all about,” he said.

“With the community projects and feelgood factor around the club, it can be a springboard for bigger and better things on the pitch.”

Ladbrokes, with the support of its owner Entain, has launched a multi-million pound investment programme, Pitching In, designed to support and promote grassroots sports. For more details see: https://entaingroup.com/sustainability/pitching-in/