Players representing Oxford United’s disability football team were formally inducted into the club by new first-team manager Des Buckingham ahead of the squad’s first home fixture.
The team arrived at United’s Horspath Road training headquarters on Tuesday to make final preparations for Saturday’s friendly fixture against Northampton Town’s disability team.
Both teams will play a one-hour game – split into five and 10 minute intervals – at the training ground before heading to the Kassam Stadium to watch the League One fixture together in the afternoon.
The day will coincide with the one-year anniversary of Oxford United in the Community’s disability football programme launch in partnership with Abingdon and Witney College and form part of the club’s EFL Community Weekends celebrations.
Launched this year, EFL Community Weekends celebrates the work community staff and volunteers deliver 365 days each year to inspire positive change to peoples lives.
Following their final training session, Des Buckingham invited players into the dressing room for a motivational pre-match team talk where he personally welcomed each squad member into the club.
There was also an opportunity for players to ask any questions they had for Des while Stephan Negru took time out of his day to meet the team too.
Des said: “A united approach to our football operation is one of our key priorities – and having the opportunity to meet our disability team on Tuesday was great for everyone.
“It’s clear they’re a very close-knit team who support each other on and off the pitch which is fundamental across all walks of life. We had a really positive team meeting in the dressing room before Saturday’s game and we wish them every success.”
In addition to meeting Des and members of the first-team, players also spoke to various local media outlets – including BBC and ITV – about the fixture and why they signed-up to Oxford United in the Community’s disability sessions.
There was time for some final shooting and passing drills and a game to round-off training. Mark Thomas, Oxford United in the Community’s Social Inclusion Lead, led the session.
He said: “We’re really grateful to Des and the football club for being so generous with their time and helpful us fulfil our mission to inspire happier, healthier and better-connected communities.
“Our disability football programme has gone from strength to strength since its launch last year, and part of that success is down to providing positive experiences to our players.
“It’s critical everyone – regardless of their age, background or ability – has access to programmes of this kind and all our participants are looking forward to our first home fixture on Saturday.”
Oxford United in the Community’s disability football programme is free and open to anyone living with a disability aged 18 or older. Sessions are held every Wednesday during term time at Abingdon and Witney College’s Abingdon campus in the main sports hall from 1pm for two hours.
Players are asked to register their interest in attending via [email protected] before turning up.
Want to support Oxford United in the Community and its work inspiring happier, healthier and better-connected communities across the county by harnessing the power of football? Fan can make a donation when purchasing matchday tickets at the online checkout where all proceeds will go directly to supporting the charity’s community provisions.
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