He’s no ordinary Joe, and football says thank-you

Steve Bull was the guest of honour as New Park Village Football Development celebrated 20 years of making a difference to the lives of Wolverhampton youngsters, writes Jake Bayliss.

A winning team – Joe Jackson, his wife Debbie and Wolves legend Steve Bull at the NPV anniversary Picture: Glen Russell
A winning team – Joe Jackson, his wife Debbie and Wolves legend Steve Bull at the NPV anniversary Picture: Glen Russell

The Wolves legend was joined by another former Molineux striker, Mel Eves, and more than 300 guests at the Ramada Hotel to mark the anniversary of the initiative which was set up by Joe Jackson and his wife Debbie in 1998.

Jackson, who started his footballing days at Wolves where he made one senior appearance before embarking on a successful non-league career, has helped shape the lives of many young people across Wolverhampton over the past two decades using football as the driving force.

NVP’s popular school liaison programme works with primary schools across the city with coaching sessions in secondary schools also provided.

Soccer ‘fun weeks’ fill the gap in the school holidays while they also deliver coaching as part of their academy programme, with a range of teams playing in various youth leagues.

Jackson, who went on to manage Bilston Town, Stourbridge and Bromsgrove, wanted to make a difference when he embarked on the project and, 20 years on, he can be immensely proud of his achievements.

He was driven to establish NPV after 15 years working as a sports lecturer and football academy co-ordinator at City of Wolverhampton College.

“My experience showed me that there was a group of young people in the system, at risk of falling through the cracks,” he recalled.

“I felt there needed to be another set-up to help those that couldn’t be reached within school.”

Starting out as a tool to help steer schoolchildren away from future involvement in local gangs, New Park Village Football Development — an umbrella term for all the initiative’s work — has since flourished into a wide-ranging set-up, spawning various programmes, across the area.

Initially working with pupils at Trinity Church of England Primary School, Jackson was soon inundated with offers from other schools.

The scheme quickly branched out into secondary schools, expanding NPV’s age range for their school-based programmes.

“In the mid-to-late 90s there was lots of tension in the area,” said Jackson. “My children were primary school age, and I didn’t want them to grow up in that environment.

“New Park Village was meant to have been for re-educating young people but after a while, it just got bigger.”

Having conducted work as part of a school liaison programme, the NPV Academy was formed in 2000.

Currently comprised of six different age groups – ranging from every year between under-8s and under-12s, plus an under-16 side – the academy boasts multiple teams.

Open to young people of all ages, Jackson is keen to ensure that the scheme has a lasting impact on all that attend.

Speaking on those close to school-leaving age, Jackson said: “We want them thinking about their careers, and they’re encouraged to pursue a career in coaching.

“Then they could develop into role models for the younger people.”

For details on how to join New Park Village’s academy teams, or enrol on the school holiday programmes, email npvfootballdevelopment@yahoo.co.uk.

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