HUNDREDS of young players are getting involved in “the beautiful game” thanks to a football club’s tireless work.

Since setting up its Mini Kickers programme nearly two years ago, Canvey Island Youth Football Club attracts 178 youngsters aged between three to seven years old to its training sessions for an hour- and-a-half on a Saturday morning.

Every young player receives a complete football kit free of charge, and sessions cost just £1, which the club says was introduced at the insistence of parents to help keep it running.

The club also has a Soccerbility squad for disabled players which trains at the same time

Both have helped to spawn seven new teams for the club who now play in competitive leagues.

The club has also won an award from Castle Point Council for its services to young people. There have been many adventures on and off the pitch since it set up, with the team having even recorded their own songs and made a pop video.

Parents have praised the scheme for keeping their children “active and away from technology.”

Lenny Dawkins, 30, from Rayleigh, takes his five-year-old stepson Archie Burrell to training each weekend and says the youngster can’t wait each week,

He said: “It’s excellent and he absolutely loves it. He can’t wait to g o to training and is always talking about getting his boots on. What’s really good is that they are encouraging kids to get out there and be active rather than staying on their computers all the time. The coaches there are really great.”

Paul Smith, chairman of the youth football club, has worked alongside Rod Hall Jnr to set the scheme up. Mr Smith says he is delighted with the response. He added: “This has proved very popular on the island with numbers going up rapidly.

“It’s not just about the football, it’s more the social element. If a youngster say they want to be part of a team and play competitively, then we provide that for them. If at the end of the day, they say they want to come along for just the training and exercise, we allow that too.”

The youngsters have also done their bit to help local charities, which included a sponsored walk along Canvey’s seaall, raising £3,000 for the island-based Danny Green Fund. Danny was a former youth team player with the football club, who tragically died from brain and spinal tumours. Visit