Diop & Johnson inspire Second Chance Academy students

As part of West Ham United’s Players’ Project, defenders Issa Diop and Ben Johnson inspired local youngsters by paying a visit to the Foundation’s Second Chance Academy recently.

The Second Chance Academy is one of more than 30 schemes and initiatives improving the lives of thousands of people from across east London and Essex, and gives aspiring young footballers released by professional clubs the chance to earn qualifications and continue playing to a high level.

Johnson, who came through the Hammers’ famed Academy to make his first team debut in the club’s Premier League game at Manchester City last term, was delighted to make use of the Players’ Project to drop in on their training session at Little Heath.

"It’s been a really good afternoon, seeing them working hard with their schoolwork and then playing here,” the 19-year-old said.

“It’s really good seeing what they can do and being able to encourage them to never give up and to keep working hard and enjoying it – that’s the most important thing.

“When you are on the pitch, football can take you anywhere. It can take you to so many destinations that you can’t even think about.

“For them, we are an example, they are really proud, and they want to show us they are at the level to play. For them it’s a good thing because they are happy when we are there, and they get to play football!”

The Second Chance Learning Academy gives 16-18 year-olds the chance to combine their passion for sport with a full-time education and sports development programme, allowing them to benefit from an outstanding learning and teaching experience, with the aim of putting them on the path to establishing themselves within the sports industry.

Johnson, having trained at Chadwell Heath himself with the Academy, knows how beneficial the programme will be to the youngsters.

“I used to play here every week, some of them have been to Beckton and I’ve played at Beckton as well when I was younger, he added.

“It’s sort of a similar path with their schoolwork, I used to come here and do my Level 2 BTEC Sport Science, in that classroom down there, then I used to come out here and train, it’s similar and I can relate to the boys.”

Click here for more information on the Second Chance Academy.