A FOOTBALL manager, who is four years sober after drinking a litre of vodka a day, has spoken of his pride in the club that has helped save lives and turned others around.

On Tuesday, Wrexham Inclusion FC travelled to Premier League giants Everton to play in the World Mental Health Day tournament.

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It is the latest competition the Plas Madoc based club has taken part in as it's reputation grows, along with the number of players taking part.

The club is a beneficiary of a football initiative which is improving the mental health of people living in Wales and is to be expanded, thanks to a funding boost from UEFA. The We Wear the Same Shirt programme has been running since 2015 and more clubs are due to sign up thanks to the funding.

It has helped support players and staff at Wrexham Inclusion FC, where one of the coaches arrived as a player and had not left his house for five years unless it was for a GP appointment. Five years on and he is a highly qualified coach and he travels the world.

Other players have lost their jobs but have rebuilt their lives through football and have found employment again.

One of the success stories is the club's manager Wayne Greenshields, a 33 year-old father of two, who has fought his own battle with alcohol.

He joined when the former Plas Madoc Association of Volunteers (PMAV) team and Wrexham Disability Football Team amalgamated to form Inclusion FC.

"I was accessing services with AVOW and playing in a team and tournaments that they ran", he said.

"But I have always lived in Plas Madoc and had to get the bus into town because there was nothing in the rural area.

"I was spending money on the bus fare that I didn't want to spend because I was drinking a litre of vodka a day.

"For me personally football was a tool, a mechanism to help. At the time I was a single dad of two boys, and at university, but behind the scenes people didn't know what was happening.

"The emphasis here is on volunteering and reward, and football is that reward.

"We play every week on a Wednesday and have up to 75 players involved, from people with substance misuse issues to disabilities and social anxiety.

"Every one has been a service user including the coaches. One of our coaches did not not leave the house for five years unless it was a doctor's appointment before he became involved, and now he's managing people."

Mr Greenshields added that one of the most pleasing developments has seen players and coaches gain employment thanks to the confidence gained through football.

He said: "Football is a mechanism, a carrot at the end of the stick.

"But we are not just a football club. We are peer mentors, teach budget skills, help people open up and talk about their emotions, especially men which is breaking the stereotype.

"It is about giving back to people, and we are looking to do even more. We're stating up an under-11's disability section and will be looking to develop that."

Mr Greenshields added that regular tournaments, such as the one at Everton, were highlights of the calendar.

Earlier this year they enjoyed success at the George Best Community Cup in Northern Ireland, and the club also hosted its first ever disability cup too this year.

He said: "The World Mental Health Tournament at Everton is one of the toughest on the circuit.

"Everton are very good at what they do, they are the team everyone wants to emulate, very professional and very progressive in what they do.

"We lost in the final last year but there are 20 teams involved and everyone ends up being a winner because you go into a league when you're knocked out, rather than just going home.

"It is about empowering people and making them feel a part of it."

Rob Franklin, the FAW Trust's football development manager added: "The programme can help people with mental health issues become better socialised, increase social inclusion, and be physically active.

"Football can be used as a kind of social therapy tool, and due to the success of the programme people feel better, they lose weight and we are looking to extend the programme over the next couple of seasons."