An Arch customer and lifelong Stoke City fan had his dreams come true when he played for the Community Trust team at the Bet365 stadium last month.

Chris Finn lives in Arch’s supported housing in Stoke, which helps people who want to live in their own homes but need extra support and skills to do so.

He used to watch the game from the stands as a child and played in a weekend league. Speaking about the match, he said, “It was a dream come true. Walking from the dressing room to the pitch was just the best. It was one of the best days of my life.”

Arch volunteer, Dave Kingman, visits Chris once a week and helps build his confidence and prepare him for independent living.  Dave told us, “From early on, Chris said he really wanted to play football but couldn’t find a team to play with.

“There are lots of clubs for teenagers or pub teams, but nothing for people who are older or don’t regularly go to pubs.”

Chris also has a hearing problem and can’t drive, so he needed to find somewhere suitable close to his home. Dave contacted Staffordshire FA, who put him in touch with the Stoke City Community Trust. The Trust aims to provide sporting opportunities for people in the local area, regardless of economic status and physical ability.

Chris played his first 11-a-side with the club on 9 June 2018 against Staffordshire University and has since played several more games, including 5-a-side, as well as training twice a week.

Dave says his confidence has grown and grown since starting, “When I first met Chris 9 months ago, he was quite shy and was nervous about meeting new people and going places on this own. He has come on a lot and is now happy to go places, like the gym, by himself, and is starting to socialise more. As a volunteer is it really rewarding to see the difference and helping Chris achieve his goals.”

Jacob Shingler, Head Coach of Disability and Inclusion Sport at Stoke City, said, “ Since meeting Chris it has been clear his confidence has grown and he now hopefully feels a part of our club, that he has a sense of belongingness with us. Chris has become a regular to a lot of our sessions participating on a regular basis of 3/4 times a week, which for us as club is achieving our goal of keeping people active.

“As a football player Chris has developed into a great sportsman, not just on the field or in training, but also off the field he seems to have made some really good friends along the way.”

With his new found confidence, Chris is looking at moving out of supported accommodation and into his own place.