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UNITED foot­ball leg­end and club am­bas­sador De­nis Ir­win has of­fi­cially wel­comed our lat­est part­ner school.

Manch­ester United Foun­da­tion works with 20 high schools across Greater Manch­ester and De­nis was de­lighted to visit ESSA Academy in Bolton to cel­e­brate the new part­ner­ship.

Dur­ing the visit he en­joyed drop­ping into some lessons, in­clud­ing an art class where pupils had de­signed clas­sic foot­ball shirts from his play­ing days, as well as his old favourite: maths.

“There’s nobody at this school now who was born when I was play­ing, but they’d all done their re­search,” said the for­mer Reds’ de­fender.

“The first class I went into was the maths class, which was my old favourite sub­ject, and they knew a lot about my ca­reer. They were us­ing sta­tis­tics about my ca­reer and how many games I played, so that was good.”

Each Foun­da­tion part­ner school ben­e­fits from the pres­ence of a full time Manch­ester United ● Foun­da­tion coach, who works with the stu­dents, feeder pri­mary schools and within the lo­cal com­mu­nity to build last­ing re­la­tion­ships.

One of the core ob­jec­tives of the part­ner­ship with ESSA Academy is sup­port­ing the tran­si­tion from pri­mary to high school, and this was show­cased at the event through an out­door foot­ball ses­sion led by school sports lead­ers for younger pupils – and they were thrilled for De­nis to join in.

Jean-Pierre, one of the sports lead­ers tak­ing part, said: “It was amaz­ing, I can’t be­lieve it be­cause he is a leg­end and I’ve never played with a leg­end be­fore. I’m a huge Manch­ester United fan and maybe in the fu­ture I’m go­ing to play for United and I feel like I’m go­ing to be like him.”

Fol­low­ing the kick about De­nis took part in an as­sem­bly and Q&A ses­sion with the whole school, shar­ing sto­ries from his il­lus­tri­ous Manch­ester United ca­reer and giv­ing the chil­dren ad­vice.

Year 8 pupil Riza was cho­sen to be a tour guide for De­nis for the day and rel­ished the op­por­tu­nity: “It has been a plea­sure and an hon­our. I al­ways watch United games so meet­ing a leg­end was one of the best mo­ments I’ve ever had in my life.”

Speak­ing of the part­ner­ship, Riza con­tin­ued: “There are no other schools in Bolton that have a part­ner­ship with Manch­ester United so it’s a re­ally big deal.”

Re­flect­ing on the day, De­nis con­cluded: “Ev­ery child has a right to ed­u­ca­tion, but ev­ery child also has the right to do a bit of sport, a bit of art, a bit of mu­sic, a bit of ev­ery­thing re­ally, and I feel this school en­com­passes all of that.

“Through the power of foot­ball the Foun­da­tion en­gages and tries to in­spire pupils and make them bet­ter peo­ple; just from walk­ing around to­day the en­thu­si­asm within the school is fan­tas­tic and it’s re­ally good the Foun­da­tion is in­volved here, it re­ally is.”

De­nis Ir­win with the academy pupils and, in­set, join­ing in a foot­ball ses­sion

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