How Marshall has benefited from pan-disability sessions
From attending Albion in the Community’s pan-disability sessions to playing at St. George’s Park, Marshall Funnell-Western has experienced a dramatic footballing rise.
Six years ago, an 11-year-old footballer with autism nervously turned up for his first session with Brighton & Hove Albion’s official charity. This is what AITC’s disability co-ordinator Kenny Moor recalled.
In hindsight, this day turned out to be a significant landmark in Marshall’s journey towards the beautiful game.
“He came to our sessions when I first started at AITC about six years ago,” Kenny fondly remembers. “He was just this little kid with autism and was really nervous to play football, but you could definitely see that the potential was there.”
From his first session with AITC, Marshall has come on leaps and bounds and has transformed into a confident and talented footballer.
Operating as a centre forward, Marshall has led the line for the charity’s pan-disability development squad for the past few years. During this time, he’s represented the Albion badge with pride at the Manchester City complex and has even graced the turf of St. George’s Park.
However, considering his gifted ability and the fact that he was on the cusp of adulthood, he was ready to take the daunting next step into men’s football.
Kenny, who helped mould Marshall into the man he is today, is the reserve team manager of a local Saturday side and invited him along.
“After a couple games, he started to gain some confidence and in one game, he scored and got man of the match,” his new manager shared. “I thought to myself, ‘wow, what an improvement.’
“The journey this kid has been on from a nervous 11-year-old to now playing and scoring in men’s football, it’s a really nice story.”
Although Marshall is no longer leading the line for his new side, he seems to have found a new footballing home at right back. Here, he has channelled his inner Tariq Lamptey, as his energetic and attacking antics have proven to be a nuisance for his opponents.
Reflecting on his time with the club, Kenny said that he’s never met anybody who genuinely enjoys the sport as much as the 17-year-old. In retrospect, this highlights Marshall’s truly incredible journey from a nervous child to a confident man who can rub shoulders with other adults, both on the football pitch and in the dressing room.
For somebody with autism this is an amazing achievement, and AITC’s disability manager Paul Brackley is proud of the impact that their sessions can have.
“Marshall is the perfect example of somebody who has seriously benefitted from our sessions and has not only developed into a fine footballer, but also into a fantastic individual who now has the tools to go and succeed in all areas of life.”
If you would like to find out more about AITC’s pan-disability sessions, or any other sessions that their disability department has to offer, please contact our disability team here.