Conor Hourihane passed on some words of wisdom to teenagers from the Aston Villa Foundation’s alternative provision scheme at Villa Park.
The midfielder spoke to every one of the six young people, who have all had challenges in mainstream schools, about their career ambitions and how they can reach their goals.
The alternative provision scheme is run in partnership with Arena Academy, with the group spending one day a week at Villa Park to help them reengage with education and gain the skills they need for employment.
Hourihane was impressed with the programme and believes sport can be used as a tool to get through to those who have found it tough in schools.
He said: “It’s a massive football club and everyone around Birmingham knows how big Aston Villa is. Hopefully bringing a player in here might give them the inspiration they need to kick on in life.
“Whatever ways they can use to educate themselves, is fantastic. School is not for everyone and they’re doing some great work here in helping these kids along, which is great.”
After finding out about the group’s career ambitions, the Villa star recalled the sacrifices he’s had to make to play professional football.
From moving over to England from Ireland at the age of 16 to missing out on nights out and birthday parties, Hourihane offered an inspiring insight into the dedication needed to reach your goals.
He said: “The majority of people here are into their football and they were asking me questions about what it took to become a footballer, but it hasn’t all been about becoming a footballer.
“We talked about what they want to achieve, and I’ve been telling them to work hard, keep believing in themselves and whatever they want to do in life they’ll be able to do it.”
One of the participants, Akeem, left the session feeling positive about his future career aspirations.
He said: “No matter what you want to do or aspire to be, if you work hard and believe in yourself, you can achieve it.”
Ken Campbell, a Sports Coach at the Foundation, delivers on the programme and he feels the power of the Aston Villa badge helps them get through to the group.
He said: “We’re offering them a different learning environment, bringing them down to Aston Villa. It’s different to being in the classroom, so that’s helping us to engage them.
“If the kids weren’t here, they’d be lazing around at home or on the streets. But here they’re getting education, career advice and life advice.
“If we can get them to apply themselves, the hope is they’ll go into jobs, college, university etc. That’s our hope for them.”