West Ham United defender Ben Johnson has declared his immense pride at being involved with the Players’ Project.
The 19-year-old full-back, who made his senior bow for the Hammers earlier this year at Manchester City, participated in last Wednesday’s event - which marked the one-year anniversary of the Project - along with the entire first-team, women and Academy squads.
The Project is West Ham’s ambitious and dedicated community programme which has seen players from every team in Claret and Blue commit to over 300 hours in total of community time, split into eleven strands which deliver over 30 programmes between them.
Johnson has been working with the Sporting Ambition strand of the Project over the past year, last month paying a visit to the Foundation’s Second Chance Academy, which gives aspiring young footballers released by professional clubs the chance to earn qualifications and continue playing to a high level.
“I went to Little Heath the other week and watched similar boys,” Johnson told West Ham TV. “They were good, but again, it’s about having that opportunity.
“Here, the whole Players’ Project is putting money into it and getting the community firing. As a Club we’re at the centre, doing integral parts of it, and it’s very positive.
“There’s so much diversity and so many different areas to do with football, which help so much, so it’s brilliant to see that we’re putting a lot of money and time into this.”
You can’t give up – you set goals, keep believing in yourself, and if you’re good enough, I reckon something will happen. You’ve just got to keep going.
For Johnson, his contribution to the wider Players’ Project holds plenty of personal meaning.
“I’m a lucky one, I’m a blessed one, I’ve had the opportunity,” he explained. “For these boys [of the Second Chance Academy], I was speaking to them and they haven’t had the same opportunity that I had.
“They still have the opportunity to make something of themselves if they want to be a footballer, but it’s difficult for them, so setting this up is essential if they want to get where they want to be.
“In their position, it’s tough, because you don’t see a path, but I was saying to them you have to pursue it. You can’t give up – you set goals, keep believing in yourself, and if you’re good enough, I reckon something will happen. You’ve just got to keep going.”
West Ham United last week announced that, just one year into the Players’ Project, £5m of this £10m has already been invested in local projects, taking the total to £18m.
The Club plans to increase its commitment over the next two seasons and will invest a further £10m, for a forecasted investment of £28m by the end of 2021.
You can read more about the one-year celebration of the event here.