Derby hope FA competition will showcase talent among county's disabled players
A GROUP of disabled footballers have been chosen to represent Derby County in a unique cup competition launched by the Football Association.
The first round of the FA Disability Cup will take place at Belper Town's Christchurch Meadow tomorrow (1pm) with a Rams representative side hosting Sheffield Wednesday Ability Counts FC.
The 11-a-side knockout competition is a new pilot scheme aimed at filling a gap in provision for those who have a disability, are high level players but not catered for in the mainstream game.
Players chosen to represent the Rams have a wide range of disabilities, both physical and mental.
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The best players from the county's disabled clubs, who regularly compete in monthly matches, held at the Racecourse, were chosen for the side.
Sam Turner, who is the Disability Football Development officer for Derby County, is managing the team on behalf of the club, Derby County Community Trust and the Derbyshire County FA.
He is excited about the competition and what it means to the club.
"The FA is looking for the cup to sit alongside the FA Cup and the FA Vase in the future," he said.
"I work with a network of clubs across the county who we bring together once a month for a game on the Racecourse in Chaddesden.
"All the clubs were given information about the competition and players were chosen from the disability football and mental health programmes which we have running in the county.
"It is a national cup aimed at those players who aren't catered for in mainstream football, such as players with learning difficulties, partially sighted footballers and players with mental health problems.
"Hopefully the cup will highlight disabilities and raise awareness of the work which we do.
"It is quite a skill for our coaches to deal with people of varying disabilities. Each player is set individual tasks specific to their disability but they must also be able to achieve the tasks set at group level, too.
"But the main thing is that the players we work with must have the skill – something which isn't always recognised."
Turner first became involved with disability football while studying at Sheffield University.
He regularly helped out with the Sheffield Centre of Excellence and, after leaving university, he approached Derby County and asked for volunteer work with the club's disability department.
This eventually earned him a full-time role which he has held for the last three years.
"The last few months, since we first found out about plans to have a Disability Cup, have been a bit hectic," added Turner.
"We learned of the plan in October last year but entry into the competition isn't an open process; we first had to be nominated by the county FA and then approved nationally as there were only 16 places available for the pilot scheme.
"We have also had to apply for funding, too, so it's been quite a quick turnaround since we found out about the competition."
Should Derby County beat the Owls in the first round of the competition, they will then progress to the regional semi-finals on March 24.
A regional final is scheduled for April with the final of the Disability Cup being held at St George's Park, Burton, in May.