Steve King is the Head and Founder of Sutton United FC’s Disability program. In 2020 he picked up two awards at the Surrey FA Grassroots Football Awards 2020 for Adult Coach of the Year and Project of the Year. With this year’s awards around the corner, we took the opportunity to profile Steve to find out more about his work with the club.
Can you tell us a bit more about yourself and your work with Sutton United FC’s Disability team?
I’ve always been a lover of football, and I think the game should be for everyone. I’d been involved with the club previously for 10 years before I decided to set up the Disability program in 2014. There was still a lack of opportunities for people with disabilities to play football and so the program was created to help fill this gap. At the start, we had 2 or 3 adults who would join us for a kick-about. Now we have 3 full 11-a-side teams who train on Sutton’s 3G pitch and are competing at a top level. It’s hugely inspiring to see and it’s a real testament to the players and staff who’ve shown immense dedication along the way.
What is it that sets Sutton United’s FC’s Disability program apart?
Everyone involved at Sutton United is treated with the highest levels of respect and appreciation. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a first team player or you play for one of the three disability squads, everyone is treated exactly the same. Every player is provided with full kits, training gear, backpacks the lot. And it’s not just what we provide them with, the training and mentoring ethos that runs through the club is exactly the same for the first team squad as it is for the disability teams. I think this creates a huge sense of belonging and team spirit which goes a very long way in making every player feel wanted and engaged with the game.
What do these award wins mean to you?
I think more than anything, the award wins were recognition of everyone’s hard work at the club that made it possible. We’ve come from very humble beginnings and to see how far we’ve progressed is amazing.
If you’d have told me we’d be playing in the final of the FA People’s Cup when there were four of us kicking a ball about at the park, I wouldn’t have believed you!
I hope it helps to raise the profile of disability football and helps to encourage more teams to get involved. We’ve already been taken aback by the brilliant relationships it’s helped build with the likes of Fulham, Chelsea and Arsenal football clubs, so it’d be good to see this extend further.
The disability program has given the players a real sense of purpose and belonging. Not only does it get them all in top physical shape, it helps build their confidence and social skills. It really is life-changing for the players and we’ve had reports from some of the parents who’ve said the improvement in their self-esteem and wellbeing has been remarkable.
Where would you like to see disability football in 10 years?
I hope disability football continues to make positive progress at a similar rate. There are currently three league competitions within the Football for All League, The Premiership, Championship and League. I’d love to see this extend even further in the coming years. Overall, the outlook is improving every year and more teams are starting to show commitment, which is very encouraging.
Surrey FA has provided us with the platform for everyone to play and for that we’re hugely grateful. I think on a purely practical level, the introduction of 3G pitches have been vital in allowing us to play all year round, so it’d be great to see even more of this.
And finally, why is community important to you?
Community is about reaching out to everybody and creating a sense of belonging. I feel we’ve managed to create this at Sutton United so that everyone feels a part of something, and I hope that more and more clubs continue to get involved with disability football in the future.
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