A GRATEFUL Flintshire mum wants to say a huge thank you to the man that has made a difference in her son's life since he lost his dad last year.

When Kelly Catherall's partner Neil Jones passed away in August 2020, she worried about the effect it would have on their son Ethan, as the pandemic also continued to take a hold across the country.

But it was Mold-based footballing coaching sessions with Ace of Sports that gave him the distraction and sense of belonging and fun that he needed.

Kelly has been so impressed and appreciative of the work done by founder and head coach, John Jones, that she wanted him to receive some recognition.

She said: "I must hear John's name about 30 to 40 times a day in our house, he's a bit of a legend.

"At the start of lockdown, he kept in touch with the children over Zoom sessions, setting challenges for them, holding some one-to-one sessions.

"Since what happened to his dad, John's been an inspiration, I can't thank him enough.

"He's gone above and beyond for Ethan. He's there for everyone, on and off the pitch.

"Not only has John helped the children physically, he's helped them mentally too.

"Ethan's had a few wobbles where he's wanted to quit football but John's straight on it. He can see the ability in him and doesn't want him to quit."

As the restrictions of lockdown started to lift, and people could exercise with another person, John, a former professional footballer himself with Liverpool FC, would visit the youngster's home in Mold to go jogging or play football.

Eight-year-old Ethan, who wants to play for Everton one day, said: "John's my sporting hero, and a person I look up to.

"I like being outside, and having a ball under my feet. I've definitely learnt new skills working with John."

As part of an early birthday treat, Ethan is set to join John, originally from Mold, for his one-to-one showcase event at Wembley at half term.

John, 28, who started the coaching company after his professional footballing career was cut short by injury, said: "There were certain people we pinpointed at Ace of Sports during lockdown that we didn't want to leave alone, and I wanted to find a way to make something happen.

"I would go to Ethan's house, for a run and a chat. It gave children the chance to speak with someone.

"Ethan knows I was creating some normality for him, being a bit of a role model.

"I had to have the conversation with him after his dad died about staying. He's gone from someone who wanted to give up, to now possibly playing academy level football."

Kelly said: "I don't know where Ethan would be if he hadn't focussed on his football, and with the extra support.

"If he ever goes to Ace and is having a down day, they spur him on, make him laugh, smile. They won't give him a minute to sit there depressed."

• For more details on the work of Ace of Sports visit aceofsports.co.uk