Everton loan star Conor Coady has spoken of his pride at working with Liverpool legend, Jamie Carragher, and Trent Alexander Arnold as the trio seek to raise £350,000 for young people at a star-studded gala.
Coady is one of the driving forces behind the Football for Change campaign, which is spearheaded by Carragher and also backed by the Reds full-back, Alexander-Arnold, among a host of stars and it aims to help youngsters in deprived areas.
Football for Change is pulling out all the stops with a spectacular event at the Emirates Old Trafford in Manchester on Thursday, where Noel Gallagher will headline, and the night will be compered by Vernon Kay.
But despite helping to organise the A-list party, Coady is set to miss it, as he prepares for England’s game against Italy on Friday night and he admits his ‘missus is gutted’.
Even so, Coady is hoping the money raised at the event will take the total Football for Change pot to more than £700,000, which will be used to help young people in deprived areas into employment and education.
‘As footballers we have an opportunity to help people and we are doing our best to do that,’ Coady told Sportsmail, which is supporting Football for Change.
‘I feel I am awfully lucky to do this job and to have the chance to help. No one is asking us to do this, we want to do it.
‘I was very lucky growing up, I had a fantastic family behind me, I wanted to play football and was lucky enough to do that, but some people don’t have that chance. In Football for Change, there are so many people from different backgrounds trying push and help.’
While Coady, Carragher and Alexander-Arnold all hail from Merseyside, the campaign commands support nationwide.
Everton’s Dominic Calvert-Lewin (born in Sheffield), former Manchester United and England full back, Gary Neville (Greater Manchester), are both on board, while Borussia Dortmund and England midfielder Jude Bellingham (Stourbridge) is a supporter, along with Aston Villa boss Steven Gerrard and England’s Euro 2022 winners, Beth Mead (Whitby) and Toni Duggan (Liverpool), plus Spurs’ Lucas Moura and MOTD pundits Alan Shearer, Peter Crouch and Gary Lineker. The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, is one of many fans.
Diehard Manchester City fan, Gallagher will be the headline act at the swanky bash with his High Flying Birds and Melanie C and Emeli Sande are also providing entertainment with individual sets.
‘Money-can’t-buy lots’ have been donated for a live auction by David Beckham, Formula 1, Robbie Williams, Calvin Harris and BT Sport.
‘My missus is a bit gutted if I’m honest because it will be a lively night, but I am away with the England boys,’ Coady joked.
But the 29-year-old, who comes from St Helens, is deadly serious about pushing the campaign to new heights.
‘I am desperate to help people and if I have the opportunity to do that I will do the best I can.
‘We have only just begun,’ added Coady. ‘You can see the people getting involved and the people we want to be involved.
‘We are trying our best to help young disadvantaged people to have a better life. And it is important we keep trying to push it.
The focus is on school leavers who are not in employment, education or training (known as NEET by government bean counters) in neighbourhoods affected by low educational attainment and high levels of youth unemployment.
Across the country, 711,000 young people aged 16 to 24 currently find themselves in that position with well-founded fears that the cost-of-living crisis and an economic downturn is about to make life even harder.
Among 16-17-year-olds, the most recent figure for so-called NEETs nationwide is 64,720, of whom 1,950 live in the Liverpool City Region. Two hundred of those youngsters have been identified in Sefton, the area where Carragher grew up.
Among the initial activities Football for Change is funding are a life-changing project for 40 young people, who travelled to the US for a sport and education programme, a training scheme for homeless youngsters, and a new education hub for young people in Bootle.
Liverpool has the second highest proportion of young people out of education and employment of any city in the country, narrowly behind Birmingham, which currently claims the dubious honour.
Carragher told Sportsmail last week that he is realistic about the size of the challenge and the fact there are deep-rooted problems, which he and the football community will struggle to solve. Even so, Football For Change is determined to help those it can.
‘We are giving it a good go,’ Carragher said. ‘There is a lot of enthusiasm and we are just trying to do the right thing.
‘Most players come from working class backgrounds…. The players are fortunate, I was fortunate, the revenues that are coming in, I am not decrying that, they deserve it, but I think it is important that people in our position give something back to help people from their own communities.
‘We have had a lot of players wanting to get involved, which is healthy.’
The problem is that poverty can become locked on a cycle is some deprived communities. Disadvantaged children – identified as those eligible for free school meals or in care – routinely achieve lower grades at GCSE and often grow up with more limited opportunities in life.
‘You can feel the world is against you and other people are luckier and more fortunate,’ said co-organiser and Liverpool right-back, Alexander-Arnold, who was born and raised in the West Derby district of Liverpool.
‘You see so much deprivation within the city, whether it be through homes, shelter, education,’ added Alexander Arnold, 23, who already has 234 appearances for Liverpool under his belt and 17 for England, after being spotted by the Anfield club aged six.
‘I always felt growing up that if I had an opportunity to help others and give to others as much as I can then that would be amazing and that is the platform I have got now and it is important for me to use that in the right way.’