Barnstaple Town have used a vital cash injection to help some of the area’s most vulnerable footballers make a safe and enjoyable return to the pitch.

In recent months, the Robins have teamed up with Barnstaple Ability FC, a club that offers people with learning difficulties, physical impairments and mental health issues the chance to enjoy football.

Many of the club’s players had to shield during lockdown but with the help of a Trident Community Foundation grant, Town were able to lend a footballing branch of support which has helped the Ability side back to its feet.

Ability’s club secretary Lynn Ashman said: “People with disabilities and mental illness can find isolation and fear particularly debilitating, causing depression and illness, and they have become distressed about leaving their homes.

“Many of our players are on the extremely vulnerable list so their lives were devastated by Covid as they used to have very busy social lives and this was withdrawn overnight.

“The grant has allowed us to hire a safe environment for our players to return to football training.

“These sessions have increased their self-confidence, self-belief and improved their physical fitness, health and mental health.”

Barnstaple are one of over 30 clubs across the Pitching In Southern, Isthmian and Northern Premier Leagues to have so far benefited from Trident Community Foundation grants, which have ranged between £1,000 and £5,000.

The initiative is part of the multi-million-pound grassroots sport investment programme Pitching In, set up by Ladbrokes with the support of its owner Entain, to help non-league clubs rebuild after two seasons curtailed by the pandemic.

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And Ashman stressed just how important the grant and Barnstaple’s gesture of goodwill have been in helping improve the wellbeing of the club and its players.

“Each week we notice an improvement in all the players and without Barnstaple’s grant, we would have struggled to return to training at our previous training ground which was free to use and couldn’t be risk assessed for Covid,” she said.

“As we are a non-profit club and deal with people who cannot work due to their disability, our funds are limited. 

“We could not have afforded to hire the new training ground but thanks to this, we have even been able to hire it for 30 minutes longer so our players are not around any other people, keeping the risk of Covid to a minimum.”

Town treasurer Alan Phair added: “We wanted to help out because we were aware of their specific needs during Covid restrictions and we had tentatively tried to create some links with the organisation prior to the pandemic.

“In addition to providing a safe training space, we’ve also provided qualified coaching for the Ability players on request.

“We’re delighted to be able to support them.”

Ladbrokes, with the support of its owner Entain, has launched a multi-million pound investment programme, Pitching In, designed to support and promote grassroots sports. For more details see: