Lifelong Burton Albion football fan John Clarke has become the first person with Cerebral Palsy to coach at the club’s academy.

Clarke, who is originally from Burton, says he has loved football ever since he was young and has been a season ticket holder at Burton Albion for over 10 years.

“It’s indescribable really, I’m proud to wear this uniform everyday, I have Burton Albion tattooed on my heart, so it’s massive for me,” he says.

He made the move from sitting in the stands to working in the stadium after he invited  Burton Albion academy manager Dan Robinson on his podcast, Wheel of Life.

Clarke says the pair connected over his desire to help people and love of the football club.

He then applied for a job at the academy and got it.

“Working at a professional football club as a coach, especially with my limitations, is amazing.

“I still have to pinch myself when I walk down the tunnel as a member of staff, it’s great for me and the friendships and relationships I’ve built here will be lifelong,” he says.

Clarke coaches across all of the age groups, doing interviews, and lots of player care.

He says his approach to coaching is to get to know the person behind the footballer.

Equal opportunities

Clarke says that although Burton Albion is ahead of the game when it comes to supporting people with disabilities to work in professional football he feels that more needs to be done elsewhere.

“I think more needs to be done, especially when working with younger age groups as it helps them come into contact with disabilities so they’re not scared to talk to somebody with disabilities,” says John.

Academy manager Dan Robinson says it is so valuable to have John on the staff.

“He’s knowledgeable about player care and growth in terms of working with people in a high performing environment.

“It’s beneficial for us as we have somebody working with us who lives his life with the challenges he does and inspires the boys because of it,” he says.

Robinson says John helps the players, especially the youngest ones, with the idea that everybody is the same.

“John wants to have these conversations and he’s really broken down barriers in that way,” he says.