Just over two years ago Nostell Miners Welfare Disability Footballer Greg Smith did not know what future held for him. Joining the Nostell team has “changed his life” and he is now heading to Geneva to play for Mencap GB in the summer.
Aston Villa supporter Greg, who is in his thirties and suffers from hydrocephalus, had moved up from Sutton Coldfield in Birmingham to Crofton in Wakefield two years ago with his mum and dad to live closer to his older brother Dan and his family.
He did not know anyone in the area, other than his family so he rarely left the house. Desperate to find some form of social activity for Greg, his brother Dan discovered the Nostell Miners Welfare Disability Football team via Facebook.
He then made contact with James Grayson and Connor Rollinson through the NLY Community Sport Facebook page. Greg came to his first session in March 2018 and has never looked back.
Whilst granting one of his dreams to play for a football team, joining has also created a circle of friends and a healthy and active social life.
He rarely misses a training session, plays regularly in the West Riding Ability Counts League and in January, he was picked for 2020 Mencap GB side – alongside his friend and football team-mate Brad Chalkley and players from Harrogate, Wales, Bradford, Middlesbrough and other parts of Great Britain.
Greg had tears in his eyes when his name was read out and his call-up completes an amazing journey and transformation.
His brother Dan said: “What Connor and James have done in a short space of time for my brother is amazing. Playing for the Nostell Disability Football team is the best thing to ever happen to my brother, it has changed his life.
“There are now so many positive things in his life and a lot of those things have emendated from playing football.
“Just before Christmas 2017 he was living in Birmingham recovering from another operation. He had to move our mum and dad to Crofton, and he was frustrated, among other things.
“If you had said back then that Greg would be going to Geneva two-and-half years later I don’t think he would have believed you. But look at him now. He has made me, my mum, my dad and the rest of the family so proud. He has worked so hard and we can’t wait to see him out there in Geneva.
“Connor and James have genuine hearts of gold. They put so much time and effort into NLY Community Sport and as a family we can’t thank them enough.”
Greg and Brad are following in the footsteps of various players from the Pontefract Pirates and Nostell Disability teams to go to Geneva in recent years such as Jacob Chandler, Conor Evans, Callum Deary, Gary Kirk, Tim Simpson and Allan Jones.
The Pontefract and Nostell teams are led by NLY Community Sport, who also established Selby Disability Football and the South Yorkshire Superheroes – the Barnsley-based team for children with disabilities and learning difficulties.
NLY Community Sport, formed in 2017, is run by James and Connor, who plays for Worsbrough Bridge.
Connor and James said: “Greg is one of our biggest success stories of the past three years.
“The transformation from when he first came is phenomenal, not just as a footballer, but as a person as well. He deserves the opportunity as his commitment to training and matches is outstanding.
“It just shows what kind of achievements and benefits are available from playing for any of our teams.”