Jonathan has always loved football, encouraged greatly by his father, John. In 1990, aged 7, he was the mascot for Barking FC as they faced Southend United in the Essex Senior Cup Final, Barking winning 4-0.
Being a local lad, he still follows his local club until this day although he also has a soft spot for Dagenham & Redbridge and more recently, Leyton Orient.
During his secondary school years he was on Millwall’s books as a promising striker but soon after, Jonathan had a mental health breakdown and has since been in recovery, unfortunately curtailing any thoughts of a professional football career. Or so it seemed.
For the past three years, Jonathan has been attending the Coping Through Football sessions delivered by the Leyton Orient Trust (LOT) in partnership with the London Playing Fields Foundation (LPFF) and NELFT (North East London Foundation Trust).
Coping Through Football is a transformational project that demonstrates how partnerships can flourish to produce a sustainable recovery model approach to engage with and improve the wellbeing of adults and young people experiencing emotional and psychological difficulties in their lives.
Since attending, Jonathan has improved self-confidence, regained communication skills, lost weight, improved fitness, made friends but most of all, has re-ignited his passion for playing football. So much so that he approached Barking FC to see if he could live a dream and play for his local club.
“The club has been fantastic,” said John senior, “and firstly allowed Jonathan to go along just to train with the reserves. Over the years, he has put on weight and so fitness is still an issue but to feel part of a team again doing what he loves has been like a full circle completing.”
As the season came to a close, Martin Haywood, Barking Reserves Manager, allowed Jonathan to be a substitute for the reserves, bringing him on towards the end of a game, an unbelievable thought considering where Jonathan was just a couple of years ago. But then, during the last game of the season, he got the call from the bench once again and scored a stunner into the bottom corner in a 5-1 win over Takeley.
“It has been like a dream come true,” continued John, “and ultimately it is Coping Through Football and all their wonderful staff who have made it possible. The project is brilliant and the players and attendees really do benefit in so many ways.”
On learning of Jonathan’s journey, Martin commented, “Jonathan’s attitude is excellent and he is a very nice young man. I hope he goes on to do great things which he is more than capable of and live life to the full. It’s been a pleasure to be part of his journey.”
If you want more information on Coping Through Football, please contact Sonia Smith, CTF Co-ordinator, 26 Low Hall Lane, London, E17 8BE or email [email protected].