Community club is helping the jobless

SIGN UP From left, placement officer Caroll Cunningham with Leigh Field, 22, from Hilsea and Ryan Harris, 20, from Milton. Picture: Malcolm Wells (131996-2623)
SIGN UP From left, placement officer Caroll Cunningham with Leigh Field, 22, from Hilsea and Ryan Harris, 20, from Milton. Picture: Malcolm Wells (131996-2623)
Charles Manson in 2014. Picture: WikiCommons

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It’s a way to help people who have been out of work for some time get some skills and knowledge to help bolster their CV and get them back to work.

And now Portsmouth Football Club has joined a vast number of employers offering work placements to people claiming Jobseekers’ Allowance.

Every Wednesday Pompey’s new A Team arrives at Fratton Park to start a four-week rolling work placement which sees them getting the stadium spick and span in time for the new season.

Last week the volunteers were working at full speed to get ready for Saturday’s Fans’ Day and the first Pompey pre-season friendly at home against Charlton Athletic.

Seats were busy being cleaned by some of the volunteers, while others wielded paint brushes covered in yellow and blue, the colours of Pompey’s crest.

Elsewhere brooms were being put to good use to clear away some of the accumulated detritus all the hard work has caused.

Stadium manager Derek ‘Rocky’ Stone said the scheme was working excellently.

He said: ‘This is the first year we’ve been able to do this. Last summer the club was in administration, so we weren’t able to go ahead and do it, but now we’ve got owners, now it’s a community club, we can.’

Not all of the people working were Pompey fans, and indeed not all of them were football fans.

But all of them were there to work and many of them chose to stay on after their four weeks were up.

Derek said: ‘So far there have been 35 people working here over the past six weeks.

‘They’re contracted to do 6.5 hours a day and since they’ve been here, for the past six weeks they’ve done more than 3,000 hours of painting and maintenance and general cleaning.

‘It’s incredible.’

Due to two successive periods of administration, the personnel running the club has diminished.

For the past 18 months no money has been made available to upgrade anything in the stadium, only to fix things once they have gone wrong.

And, in that time, the only person doing any maintenance has been 75-year-old John ‘Bud’ Abbott.

Derek said: ‘They get something out of this, but we get something too.

‘Some of the painting we would do every year, but we’re painting things that haven’t seen a lick of paint in maybe 25 years – there’s even an area behind the Fratton end that has never been painted. We’ll be doing that before the start of the season.’

Last Wednesday two new recruits were given their briefing, handed a paint brush, and given their first jobs.

Ryan Harris, 20, from Milton and Leigh Field, 22, from Hilsea were both hoping the placement could lead to more work.

Ryan said: ‘I’ve been out of work since March, and before that I was working in the Farmhouse pub.

‘It’s been a while since I had a job and I studied musical performance at university, which isn’t great for getting a job. I’ve since been looking at IT apprenticeships before I was told to come here.’

Leigh said she was warned her benefits could be stopped unless she attended the work placement.

She hasn’t worked since she was 17 due to issues with anxiety and depression.

She said: ‘I applied for college but I didn’t get in, and I was refused an apprenticeship.

‘The Job Centre said I hadn’t applied for enough jobs and said I had to come here or my benefits would be stopped – but I am really excited to be here and I want to work.’

The partnership between PFC and the Jobcentre Plus came about via service provider Pinnacle, which arranges for these placements in a variety of businesses – though most are charity shops.

Caroll Cunningham, placement officer with London-based Pinnacle, said it was a real achievement being able to offer the scheme at such a high-profile business as Pompey.

She said: ‘My job is to find placements and I do try to think out of the box to find places other than with charities.

‘I’ve been trying to get into Pompey since February, and once the club came out of administration I phoned Rocky and it went from there.

‘This isn’t just a summer job – there will always be a maintenance team here, so this is something that will be ongoing.

‘The scheme is called Mandatory Work Activity, so it’s something they have to do to keep their benefits but we try to make it as pleasant as possible.

‘We’re also trying to give something back to the community and as this is a community club now it works well.’

SIGNS OF THE TIMES

THERE’S a new set of signs hanging over the Milton End at Fratton Park – and these ones herald a new era at the stadium.

Fratton Park: Owned by the Pompey Fans, they exclaim, as a triumphant end to months of struggle that saw the club brought to the brink of existence before the Pompey Supporters’ Trust and some well oiled business people took over.

Pompey’s new chief executive officer, Mark Catlin, said: ‘Over the summer there has been a programme of refurbishments at Fratton Park and we are sure fans will notice a big difference when they come to the first game of the season, not least in the new Milton End - officially sponsored by IMS - which looks fantastic.’

IMS stands for Industrial Maintenance Services, which is based in Portsmouth.

Mr Catlin continued: ‘This shows again the faith local business is showing in our new community football club.’

Ian Brown, the firm’s managing director, added: ‘For the first time in years we are looking forward to the start of the season with renewed enthusiasm. We hope the fans like the new look.’

SPANISH GUESTS

IT might be hot here, but it’s nothing to what the team from Rayo Vallecano are used to.

They play in Madrid, Spain, where the temperatures regularly reach 100F in the summer.

The Spanish team will be visiting Costa Del Pompey on Sunday for the final home game friendly before the Blues’ League Two campaign starts in earnest in August.

Pompey spokesman Colin Farmery urged fans to support the match.

He said: ‘It’s a real honour to be hosting Rayo Vallecano on July 28 at Fratton Park for the final home friendly before the new season gets underway.

‘By supporting the club through buying tickets, fans are helping to fund the club and its activities on an ongoing basis.

We need the fans’ support. It’s been fantastic so far, and we want it to keep going.’

As reported in yesterday’s News, the Pompey Fans’ Day was a roaring success.

The day included the team’s away strip being unveiled for the first time, which the players are also due to wear for the Rayo Vallecano game on Sunday.

COMMUNITY-MINDED

IT has not seen a lick of paint for a generation, but now the huge doors to the Frogmore Road entrance of Fratton Park are finally Royal Blue once again.

Dave Bayes, 43, from Paulsgrove and Charlotte Brooks, 25, from Havant worked like troopers to get it finished for Saturday’s Fans’ Day.

Dave said: ‘This is my second week here and I love it.

‘It might help get you into work, gives you a few skills, it’s all good.’

Dave, himself sporting a Pompey blue top, said he wasn’t a particular fan of the team but said: ‘I do hope they do well this season.

‘This is also about being part of the community.’

Charlotte agreed. She said: ‘I’ve only been here a week so far, so I’m quite new, but it has been quite fun getting the stadium ready for the season and making new friends. It’s been brilliant.

‘It’s also another thing for my CV, getting some experience for that.

‘I want to get into caring for the elderly, or into retail.’

PAINTING SKILLS

KATIE Simpson was in her third week of her Fratton Park placement when she painted this metal barrier.

The 21-year-old was enjoying soaking up the rays while painting the fence behind the Milton End a similar shade of sunshine.

She said she has enjoyed her placement so much she is voluntarily staying on after her four-week Jobcentre contract ends, again working for free.

She said: ‘I want to stay on to get a bit more experience.

‘I’ve really enjoyed the painting side of things, especially in this weather, as I find it quite relaxing.

‘All of us here get along really well and even the new people we get in every Wednesday we get along with very quickly.

‘Bud is really good with everyone, telling us what to do but he’s pretty relaxed.

‘I don’t know if I’ll be able to get a job out of this, but we’ll see how it goes.

‘I’ve been out of work for three years and I hope this will give me a little bit of work experience to put on my CV so I can go into care working in nurseries.’