Meet the Halton Moor man on mission to transform lives of children through free football sessions

A Leeds man is on a mission to transform the lives of children in Halton Moor through free football sessions accessible to everyone - as one boy from the group is signed by Leeds United.

Monday, 6th September 2021, 4:45 pm
Updated Monday, 6th September 2021, 5:50 pm

Les Nelson, 37, grew up on the estate and saw first hand the lack of opportunities for youngsters in the area.

Eager to make a change, Les recently set up not-for-profit organisation United Sporting Academies CIC and started up footballing sessions every Thursday to allow kids the chance to get off the streets and improve their health and well being, both mental and physical.

Around 20 children came to the first free session three months ago.

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Les Nelson, 37

However, there are now more than 80 boys and girls from the ages of six to 14 who attend each week - many of which would otherwise not had the opportunity.

Talent scouts from Leeds United have even attended the sessions and have been so impressed they are now wanting to attend on a regular basis and one boy has been signed to the club's shadow squad already, Les told the YEP.

He now wants to promote the positive aspects of Halton Moor and prove that the sessions improve the community.

Speaking to the YEP, Les said the sessions gave the kids "something to look forward to" and just seeing their happy faces whilst training was enough for him.

Les Nelson, 37

He said: "The sessions are exciting and the kids love it.

"When we started them, we had about 20 kids and I thought 'wow this is great!'

"We now have more than 80, both boys and girls.

"You wouldn't believe the talent here.

"Sometimes I ask them where they have played football before and many have never been able to play for a team because of the costs involved.

"The buses, the transport, the kits, it all adds up.

"I have seen a huge change already after just a few months, the feedback has been incredible.

"I want to shout about Halton Moor and what we are doing here as it often gets a bad reputation.

"It is renowned for crime in the press but there is more here than that.

"These kids prove that."

Local business owners - including Charley Walsh from Charleys Treats - have donated kits and supplies to the children.

"The whole community has come together", Les said.

"Charley came down and she donated 90 bags of sweets initially for all the kids but was so vested in what was happening has also provided a significant contribution towards the kids kits.

"It gives them some identity.

"When Charley came with the sweets, one of the kids who didn't know her ran up and gave her a massive hug.

"It really was lovely to see. You don't think about it but it means so much to them."

The talent on display at the sessions is "unbelievable", Les said.

One of the boys who has attended the sessions has been scouted and signed up to play in Leeds United's shadow youth squad.

Les said: "He has so much potential that we have seen already.

"One of the girls is about to start a weeks trail with York City development squad as they took an interest, she is so good.

"These kids would never have had these opportunities."

Les grew up in Halton Moor and said he had little opportunity for similar sporting sessions as a kid and again had to go off estate for this.

He said he now wants to 'stabilise' the lives of the children of the estate and improve their fitness and morale through sport.

The children are making new friends every week, Les said.

"I just wanted to give something back to the area I grew up in.

"There are so many amazing things about Halton Moor that never get spoken about.

"For example Ex professional boxer Danny Reynolds is doing an amazing job with the kids at the boxing gym, I see them getting put through there paces so hats off to Danny for that and more recently local lad Jordan Moyles has set up an open age men’s football team running out of Halton Moor.

"In the sessions, we have kids from every background that may not always mix socially usually, but it is so inclusive here and it’s great to see everyone getting along.

"Everyone is welcome and everyone is happy."

The sessions for United Sporting Academies take place at 6pm at Corpus Christi High School fields each Thursday.