Former GB wheelchair basketball international TJ Yates part of the Pompey amputee squad set for a historic cup final this weekend

Pompey amputee player TJ Yates is so excited about being broadcast live on BT Sport he's going to record the show so he can watch himself when he gets home.

By Lewis Mason
Friday, 16th July 2021, 9:45 am
TJ Yates training with the Pompey amputee football team ahead of Sunday's national cup final. Picture: Chris Moorhouse
TJ Yates training with the Pompey amputee football team ahead of Sunday's national cup final. Picture: Chris Moorhouse

Yates, 30, will be part of the Blues team who face Peterborough’s amputee team in the amputee final of the FA Disability Cup on Sunday.

Yates and his team-mates will get to turn out at St George's Park for the showpiece while also becoming the first amputee match to be shown live in the UK.

The Leigh Park-based Pompey player admitted it's a day he never thought would arrive for him - but he cannot wait to showcase his potential on such a huge stage.

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TJ Yates training with the Pompey Amputee football team this week. Picture: Chris Moorhouse

Yates said: 'Never in a million years would I have thought this would happen in England (amputee match broadcast on TV).

‘When we had the Euros in 2017 it was on more like the Turkish TV.

‘Getting told BT Sport were going to be hosting the whole weekend - it’s been non-stop with everyone saying, ‘we’re going to be on TV and to record it.’

‘I want to watch it when I get home just to see the highlight reel at the end of it.

‘You’ve got Powerchair football, Cerebral Palsy, blind football - a lot of people don’t know much about disability sport and football so it’s going to be an insight into what’s involved.'

Yates only began playing in 2016 after being persuaded by team captain and club founder Ray Westbrook to give amputee football a try.

He had previously excelled at wheelchair basketball, representing the Great Britain under-23 squad and travelling to Italy, Holland, Turkey, Germany, and Spain to play. Yates was part of the GB team that won a silver medal in the European Championships in Italy.

Although not keen at playing football at first after being asked by Westbrook, he has gone onto represent England's amputee team in the five years since starting out.

Incredibly Yates, who lost his left leg in an accident at Hayling amusement park aged 15, had to retrain to kick a ball with just his weaker right foot.

He conceded it took the best part of a year to get up to speed with amputee football, but he has made great progress since starting with the Blues.

Yates said: 'I’ve known Ray (Westbrook) and he asked me to come years ago, but I had that mindset that it wasn’t real football so I didn’t want to play.

‘He came back to me a few years later and said give it a try, I had one training session, then I felll back in love with the sport. I’ve not looked back and that’s now six years down the line.

‘It took me a while to be able to run with the ball with my crutches, that came, then it was a case of developing my shot.

‘Before I lost my left leg I was left-footed so I had to readapt how to kick a ball and how to get the power. My power comes from the outside of my boot and it’s like recreating that left foot technique.

‘The hardest bit was to overcome losing my dominant leg and then trying to make my other leg my dominant leg.

‘Over time it’s just come natural, nine times out of 10 I hit it hard, and people don’t like getting in the way of it which is even better.'