Rams now helping to turn life's losers into real winners
YOU'LL regularly hear ardent supporters trot out the line that "Derby County is my life".
And "Derby 'til I die" is proudly chanted by fans and often appears as an ID for website comments.
Less committed followers of the game find such professions of devotion faintly ridiculous or sad.
But while those fanatical announcements may be over the top, Jon Fairbrother's statement that "Derby County saved my life" does stand up to scrutiny.
He may not be a die-hard fan (though his affiliations to DCFC have no doubt hardened over the past year) but the help he has received from the club's community programme may well have saved him from an early grave.
That is the fate suffered by so many of those who become ensnared in addiction to heroin, which was Jon's plight.
He had little on his personal horizon apart from being in the daily grips of the deadly drug.
He was very fortunate in that he had parents who did not give up on him and sought what help could be found.
That led Jon, a former promising youth footballer whose dreams of a career in the sport had long been extinguished by his downward personal slide, to Derby County in the Community.
Its programme, run in conjunction with NHS Derby, the city council and charity Phoenix Futures, gave him a new focus in life.
Jon, and others like him, are put on gym fitness and sports programmes, given one-to-one counselling and given voluntary work in the community.
The personal touch with the project officers is surely vital.
Those on the slippery slopes of heroin tend to lose all social contact – apart from the sort they could well do without.
Their self respect is restored by this rehabilitation programme – and so is their standing in society.
The name of the project inevitably means that the football club enjoys much of the kudos, though the role of Phoenix Futures, which is devoted to helping people overcome drug addictions, should certainly not be overlooked.
Jon is now a useful member of society again on several fronts – as a school football coach, a volunteer at both the Lauren's Link drug charity and a food kitchen, and through a gardening job.
Some may take exception to the principle of public money, through the NHS and council support, being used in this manner.
But the community programme can boast a remarkable success rate – 95% of its former drug users have been kept away from reoffending.
So it is unquestionably covering its costs through the resources of the health and police services which are being spared.
It is an invaluable human resource to our city – come on you Rams!