A WINSFORD dad who is devoted to nurturing young footballers has spoken of his pride after launching the most rewarding project of his career.

Tony Mitchell, 43, has officiated, managed and coached more than 800 players since he was 15, won countless awards and held various positions.

With drive and determination, he led teams at Winsford Youth Centre, Colts, Athletic, United, Diamonds, Over 3, Woodford and Davenham.

His new team Winsford Community Disabled Football Club has already exceeded all his expectations just six months after it was founded.

Young players with a range of disabilities have achieved goals on the pitch they never dreamed possible.

As they kick a ball and relish being part of a team, their confidence and self esteem have soared.

"It is the best thing I have ever done in football," said Tony, who has led countless teams across the town to triumph and trophies.

"It is quite emotional. Seeing kids score a goal, something they have never done before is special."

Tony had to give up work himself after being diagnosed with Parkinsons when he was only 37.

Yet he has never let his disability be a handicap.

"Nothing is impossible," said dad-of-two Tony, who used to work in factories and warehouses.

"My own 12-year-old son Patrick is disabled and football mad. I think that kids born with a disability should be included and given a chance.

"No barrier is too big. We, as a club, value and respect each individual. It isn't just myself, a huge amount of special people have been involved along the way.

"The greatest thing for me was to try and help parents and families to get together. It has been a huge success."

Around 32 boys and girls of all ages and disabilities train every Sunday.

Each child is given a free kit, thanks to generous sponsorship from Dave Cotterill of KC Autos on Winsford Industrial Estate.

"Dave has been fantastic," said Tony. "He has offered to sponsor us for 10 years. This is the first time a disabled football club has ever been done.

"Seeing the kids happy and smiling is fantastic. Each child has their own development programme and they all have different needs.

"We've got kids in wheelchairs and with walking aids and they all love the game. Playing has improved their lives. We give every child the chance to score a goal or take a penalty. Everyone has a go."

The proud team is encouraged to keep their heads held high.

"At the end of every training session I get them all to say: 'We are fantastic, no one is better than us'."

The group is run by Tony and a team of enthusiastic volunteers.

Winsford mum Rebecca Goodier, says belonging to the team has made a huge difference to her son Jamie, 11, who has Down syndrome.

She said: "He loves it. All the children love turning up to not only take part in the football but to be part of a team."

"Tony is amazing and so passionate about football. You can see him welling up, it means a lot to him.

"All the parents keep thanking him for what he is doing."

The team is now raising money to enable more volunteers to complete specialist coaching training.

Players will be bag packing at Asda on The Drumber on Saturday, February 16.

Tony is appealing for more people to get involved and donations.

Anyone able to help can email Tony at mitchell_tony1@sky.com.