Anth had a bad reputation as a troublemaker on the Easterside estate in Middlesbrough. Despite being a gifted footballer, he was excluded from school 48 times and was arrested and barred for life from his club Middlesborough FC for streaking across the ground one match.
But thanks to the support of youthworker Tony Grainge and the Eden team in Easterside, Anth turned it all around. He is now helping run a football outreach on his estate whilst finishing a sports science course and this year was awarded the Volunteer Award at the Urban Hero Awards 2011. See his nomination video here.
Tony Grainge, used to tell kids to stay away from Anth, because they were good boys and he was a bit of a bad boy. He was rebellious, drinking, taking drugs and could be violent. As Tony got to know him he discovered he was an amazing footballer and had been given an opportunity to play for Middlesborough FC but threw it away when he got in with the wrong crowd.
Anth’s life changed dramatically when he was invited to a meeting by Tony and had a powerful encounter with God. He started to see his life and his football very differently.
“When I became a Christian I knew that what I’d done wasn’t right. I matured as a person and as a Christian, and I want to follow in Tony’s footsteps by helping the younger lads on the estate to avoid taking the same path I took.”
“He is consistently turning up for his football and collage course,” said Tony. “He’s gone from being constantly excluded to being a reliable young man and a pleasure to work with and be around. At 18, he has become a vital part of the Eden team. He’s a support to Tony and encouragement to dozens of young lads on the estate. He can run small sessions on his own. He’ll text the lads, get it organized. He’s guiding and advising younger lads who are leaving school. I see Anth as being a good role model. A lot of the kids we work with are in and out of school and constantly in trouble. A lot of lads look up to Anth, and he can be a strong role model to them and mentor them.
“It’s what I do the job for really. To see young lads turn their life around, but most importantly to see them get to know God and to become passionate for God. That’s what turned Anth’s life around. It’s not really meeting me, it’s meeting God. That’s job satisfaction.”