Pompey in the Community’s striker, TJ Yates, says the John Jenkins build is “an absolutely amazing” opportunity for the Pompey amputee team. The new stadium complete with two brand new astro pitches will give the boys in blue a permanent home and TJ says the lads can’t wait to move in.
Representing both Pompey and the England national team, the experienced pro is in a great position to judge the suitability of the new facility, in regards to the needs of the amputee team and the Portsmouth community as a whole.
“It sounds absolutely amazing, for us, people can actually come and watch which would be good so it can promote us and the football we play, it’d be that community feeling that we haven’t got as such at the moment. Of course there’s also the seating area, the bar bit, and we’ll be able to host tournaments and hopefully get a few of the other amputee’s teams down”.
With a majority of the Pompey amputee games currently being played in Crewe, friends and family currently face a four hour trip just to watch the stars in action.
“It’s a bit of a trek”, joked TJ, “normally you can tune in and watch us on BT Sport but this way you can get a tournament set up and we’ll be playing in Pompey so we can put on a good show for everyone”.
TJ shared how the game is very different when you see it up close and the new astro pitches would provide the perfect opportunity for fans to experience the game in its purest form:
“The people watching it on the TV, they’re all shocked at how quick and fast paced the game actually is in person, you get a whole different perspective on things and see it in all its glory”.
TJ severely injured his left leg at the age of just 15, in a freak theme park incident at Funland Hayling Island. After a safety bar malfunctioned, he was left in a critical condition after falling to the ground from a great height.
“I didn’t lose my leg at that point, I got told by all the doctors that I could keep it, that they could save it and about 10 days later a military doctor came round and explained he didn’t think they were telling me the whole truth”, he said.
TJ was told he wouldn’t be able to properly use his leg and four years down the line it would likely require amputation.
“I just wanted to get on with life”, he explained, and made the brave decision to go ahead with amputation just a few days later, following an appeal to QA hospital. “I’ve not looked back on it, I still to this day believe it was the right decision to make”.
Impressively, TJ has even represented Great Britain at wheelchair basketball, with his determination to find his calling in disabled sport, refusing to let him give up on his dream. However, his first love shone through and after a year of playing both sports, he settled into the Pompey amputee team.
He says for him, it’s not just about playing at a high level, but also thinking about “where we can progress and promote the sport, to showcase how good it actually is and BT sport helps with that massively”.
The Pompey forward also has two sons who he says are very keen on following in their father’s footsteps. For TJ, it was important not to force football onto the boys, who he says have to be allowed to follow their own path.
“They both play football, it’s hard watching them and not trying to push them too much. When I was younger my dad pushed me quite hard. I’d rather them want to do it on their own. They come to my training and see my work ethic and how hard I try and I guess that rubs off on them. I’ve been into my boy’s school to do a talk about it and everything and having them say ‘that’s my dad’ in front of their mates, it’s a proud moment”, he said.
The John Jenkins will also provide a new hub for junior football which TJ says is an exciting prospect, aiming to gather the currently scattered Pompey in the Community holiday courses in one place. Youngsters like TJ’s sons will be given a regular venue to attend, complete with the specialist PitC coaching they always receive at football courses.