Goals that soothe the soul: Liverpool legend ‘Lawro’ to spur on players at homeless football tournament

published on 24 Sep 2019

Roberts and Swansbury

The Salvation Army’s annual Partnership Trophy will kick off in Manchester next week with special guest, BBC Match of the Day pundit, Mark Lawrenson cheering on the teams.

Now in its ninth year, the tournament brings together more than 25 teams from The Salvation Army’s lifehouses (hostels) and homelessness support services across the UK and Republic of Ireland. For the first time victims of modern slavery who are supported by The Salvation Army will also be taking part.

Mark will be meeting and inspiring participants throughout the day, and sharing some of his top tips in a football masterclass. Mark will also tell his own story covering life on and off the pitch, including his cancer diagnosis in 2018 and the health issues in his youth which could have prevented him ever playing football.  

Now most famous for his appearances across BBC Sport, Mark is respected amongst football fans for his important role in Liverpool’s success during the 1980’s winning five league titles, three league cups, the FA Cup and the European cup.

Mark Lawrenson said: “Events like this show what a positive impact football and sport in general can have on someone’s physical and mental health. Finding something you enjoy and can share with others is vital in improving quality of life. I’m privileged to be attending this tournament and I look forward to meeting the teams in Manchester.”

The tournament is one of the many ways The Salvation Army promotes positive and independent living to its service users.

Director of The Salvation Army’s Homelessness Services Mitch Menagh said: “It is with great pleasure we welcome Mark to the 2019 event.

“The Partnership Trophy is a celebration of everything our residents have overcome and achieved, and it’s a day for everyone to come together – staff, volunteers and service users alike - for some healthy competition and a bit of fun.

“It’s much more than just food and shelter that is needed to help people rebuild their lives in our lifehouses, alongside our training in basic life skills and housing, employment and addiction support services, we also provide support that boosts people’s confidence and well-being.

“Exercise and sport is a positive way for people to spend their time, as well as boosting both their physical and mental health.”

Friends Simon Roberts and Mikey Swansbury residents at Tŷ Gobaith Lifehouse in Cardiff will be among those making the journey to Manchester next week to take part in the Partnership Trophy.

Simon had an unhappy childhood and turned to alcohol at an early age. Following a court case and the breakdown of a relationship he found himself on the street and began taking drugs. He found a place on the detox Bridge Programme at Tŷ Gobaith and has since joined the lifehouse football team.

Simon said: “Playing football has built up my confidence. Getting on the pitch has been and still is a big challenge for me and I’m way out of my comfort zone but I feel good about myself when I’m playing. I forget about everything and I get some exercise and a sense of achievement. It’s an escape.

“My brain doesn’t produce serotonin – the chemical that makes you happy, because of the drugs I used to take and the drink, so football has helped me to rediscover my passion for life. It’s the best natural high ever and playing has been a big turning point for me.

“I’m really looking forward to travelling to Manchester and taking part in the tournament. I’ve never had the chance to do anything like this before.”

Mikey is also on the Bridge Programme and has been living at Tŷ Gobaith for over a year.

“As a child, I was always playing rugby and football with my friends. I was a pretty good footballer and was meant to go for a trial with Man City but I couldn’t go in the end because it clashed with our holidays and Mam had paid £400 for us to go away.

“I ended up homeless last year when I lost my job, my relationship and my home – literally everything I had in the space of just one month. I was drinking as much as I could every day just to get me to sleep. I’d wake up and start drinking straight away and then I’d drink all day.

“I’ve now been sober for 10 months and I feel better than ever and I’m playing football again. Football stops me thinking about everything that worries me so I’m really looking forward to the Partnership Trophy and representing Tŷ Gobaith, they saved my life.”