Former Birmingham City captain joins community sport team

A former captain of Birmingham City has been appointed as manager of a £500,000 community initiative to engage with young people who live in the 1,000 acre Regenerating North Solihull area. 

Ian Clarkson, who made his debut for the 'Blues' aged just 17 and went on to captain the club by the age of 20, has been appointed by Solihull Council to head up the NS Fusion initiative.

This pioneering five-year scheme has been specifically designed to target 10 – 24 year olds and weekly 'StreetSport' activities are being held at four priority regeneration locations with higher levels of unemployment and crime.

The NS Fusion programme also runs a comprehensive 'HolidaySport' programme during school holidays, hold weekly activities at a range of indoor venues, and is putting selected 'New Deal' long-term unemployed young people through an accredited sports coach training programme to become sporting role models and professional coaches in their local area.

Ian, who has spent the past five years working as a sports journalist for the Sunday Mercury and The Birmingham Post, is a fully qualified UEFA 'B' coach and Level 1 FA Coach Educator and hopes to use all his experience in helping get the youngsters of North Solihull off the streets and into sports.

 He said: "I grew up in Hobs Moat and have lots of family connections in Chelmsley Wood, so it is really exciting for me to be a small part of this massive regeneration project that is going to change so many lives.

"I really enjoyed my career playing football and the years in journalism that followed, but I feel this is something I can really put my heart into and show these kids that the possibilities from sport can be fantastic. Regenerating North Solihull is not just about building new houses and schools, it's also about giving people hopes and aspirations they may never have had before.  I can't think of a more worthy and rewarding job than that."

During his career, Ian was part of the Birmingham City side that won the Leyland Daf Trophy in 1991 before moving to Stoke in 1993. He then moved to Northampton where he helped them win promotion at Wembley through the play-offs but lost at the same stage of the competition the following season. He retired due to injury in 1999 but then came back to help Kidderminster Harriers win the Conference title in 2000.

NS Fusion is being funded by five principal sponsors; Sport England Community Investment Fund (National Lottery), Solihull Community Housing, Solihull Council, Jobcentre Plus, and the North Solihull Partnership (which is delivering the £1.8bn, 15-year Regenerating North Solihull programme). Additional support is being contributed by West Midlands Police, Groundwork Birmingham & Solihull and the Solihull Crime & Disorder Reduction Partnership.

Janet Bradbury, Chief Executive of the North Solihull Partnership comments: "The groundbreaking NS Fusion initiative will give 10 – 24 year olds a number of different ways, week in – week out, to do sports activity which is designed to encourage young people to engage more with their local area. Furthermore, the New Deal programme – which is training long-term unemployed people to become professional sports coaches – will generate a number of home-grown role models, which is vital to raising aspirations and enabling people to access the wide range of employment opportunities that exist in and around North Solihull."

Six local residents from North Solihull, who were signed onto the Government's New Deal programme, which provides assistance to people who have been out of work for at least six months, have been hand-picked and awarded six-month, 24 hour a week training contracts to become professional sports coaches. All six trainees expressed a keen interest in sport whilst job seeking. Funding has been allocated for many more New Deal job seekers to be enrolled on NS Fusion's six-month sports coach training programme.

North Solihull's three wards of Chelmsley Wood, Smith's Wood, Kingshurst & Fordbridge, which make up the 1,000 acre regeneration zone, fall within the UK's top 10 per cent deprived neighbourhoods.

The £1.8bn investment project encompasses the creation of a series of new primary schools, five village centres, improving 12,500 homes and building 8,000 new properties. New bus routes and infrastructure improvements are also planned for the 15-year programme, along with the creation of safe, open public spaces. And, underpinning the entire regeneration programme is the desire to create better access to jobs, training and economic prosperity for every sector of the community.