Stewart Downing gave pupils of Dycorts School in Romford a day to remember as the West Ham United winger stopped by on Tuesday afternoon.

Dycorts cater for pupils between the ages of four and 16 with moderate learning difficulties, dozens of whom had prepared questions for the West Ham man.

Upon taking to the floor, Downing soon divulged his soft spot for the Coronation Street cobbles, while also naming the Kings of Leon as his favourite band.

There was no shortage of football chat either, with students keen to see the former Liverpool wideman bag his first goal in Claret and Blue before long.

Stewart Downing at Dycorts School
Stewart Downing fields questions from the students

The 29-year-old's visit comes in the midst of leading disabled charity Level Playing Field's Weeks of Action, with clubs encouraged to showcase their commitment to supporting fans with disability and Special Educational Needs (SEN).

LPF is a campaigning and advisory organisation working on the behalf of all disabled supporters. LPF works to share good practice, raise awareness and promotes improved access to sports stadiums for disabled fans and disabled people who aspire to attend live sporting events.

As part of the Hammers' continued commitment to the promotion of tolerance and inclusion in 2014, the Club is using Saturday's fixture against Manchester United to raise campaign awareness and highlight the work that the Club is doing.

For his part, Downing hoped that his visit had given the youngsters plenty to smile about.

"It's been a good day and hopefully the kids enjoyed it," he told West Ham TV. "There were a few questions about my team-mates, which I'll keep to myself, but there were some good ones and others that caught me out a little bit. I'm a secret Corrie fan! I didn't want to expose that but they asked me and I quite enjoy it.

"These kids are fans and you see when they meet the players that it brings a smile to their faces. They certainly enjoyed it and there was enough good banter going around. The questions were good and they got a signed photo, so hopefully it made their day."

West Ham's No23 was delighted to be out in the Hammers' heartland, showing his gratitude to the school's loyal following.

"It's a chance to show your appreciation to all these people that are fans and in the local community," he explained. "If you make one kid's day then I think you've done a good deed.

"They were asking how I got into football and when you tell them that you start young, it gives them something to aspire to and reason to kick on."

Downing's presence may well have inspired the youngsters looking on and Games and Sports organiser Fatjon Qela was adamant that the winger's trip had gone down a storm with pupils.

He said: "The pupils loved it. We told them a couple of hours beforehand, because we didn't want to get them too excited and they were all bursting to seeing him.

"This is a massive boost to the school. All the pupils were so excited and it will probably be like this for the rest of the week."

Stewart Downing at Dycorts School

Like many of the Club's partner schools, Dycorts are quick to make the most of the many Kids for a Quid offerings each season. Mr Qela had only good things to say of the scheme, one that enables pupils to experience Barclays Premier League football at close quarters.

"It's brilliant. We went to three or four games last season and we've been back this season with some of our younger pupils.

"Kids for a Quid [KFAQ] is a massive help to us. We're not a big school, with only about 70, or 80 pupils, so we've not got the funding to pay for other matches. KFAQ really does help with us and they give us two members of staff free of charge when we take pupils.

"It [the experience of live football] helps the pupils to achieve their ambitions in life. It's really, really good. We've done a few sporting activities against other boroughs and we've not lost, so we're doing well as a school."

The LPF Weeks of Action 2014 run from March 15 to 30. For more information about Level Playing Field, the Weeks of Action, to join them or sign up to receive their newsletters, you can go online to, email or call them on 01244 893584.

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