Tucked away in an industrial estate on Vesty Road is the home of Bootle FC, but it is not just the home of the Northern Premier League West Division side, the Berry Street Garage Stadium doubles up as the home of Bootle Bucks Inclusion FC.

The club was established to provide  football coaching to children with disabilities with no access to organised football sessions or a place to train, stay fit, and enjoy socialising with other children with similar challenges.

The club was set up back in 2018 by five club runners, Gareth Ace, Keith Woodhouse, John Doran, John Callaghan and John Rice who all came together to help promote Inclusion football which is very close to their hearts.

Gareth Ace (far left), Keith Woodhouse (inside left), John Doran (Centre), John Callaghan (inside right), John Rice (far right)

When the club was formed, just 16 signed up to help out, today, there are over 200 active members from as young as 4 to 41 years old.

The club usually face other disability teams on Merseyside but they have also had great experiences competing in football tournaments in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

One of the players who signed up from the very start of the Bootle Bucks journey is 16 year old Joe Symes, who suffers from Autism. He spoke to MerseySportLive about the benefits he has gained by playing for the club: “It’s brought me out of my shell massively, one of the coaches John Callaghan, has always made jokes with me about how I was a small kid, biting my nails and looking down at the floor and now I am just so confident, communicating with people and that is all down to the coaches.

“It’s not just me they have helped, I see it all the time when someone new joins, they massively grow as a person, and you can see the developments every week.”

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Joe Symes taking on an opponent for Bootle Bucks Inclusion FC. Credit: Will Griffiths

Symes added: “Mentally, there’s something special about football where it is a release from reality and you can forget about your personal struggles and of course it has it’s physical benefits by losing weight by becoming more active.”

As this week marks Children’s Mental Health Week, the 16-year-old has urged those who may be dealing with issues in their personal life to get involved with inclusive sports like football: “I’ve always been part of Inclusion sport and I knew what it is all about, it is to help people who don’t have access to mainstream sports and set them on a pathway into something they love.

“If anyone wants to try inclusive football, give it a go, it’s amazing.”