From the moment he was first taken to watch Wolves by his Dad, Mark Bromley started dreaming of wanting to work for the club.
He knew it was perhaps unlikely, maybe even impossible, but that was the dream.
And now? Just over a decade on?
Mark has been, for just under a year, employed by Wolves Foundation as a Cohesion & Inclusion Coach.
Much hard work and determination has been shown in between to achieve that dream, first thought of all those years ago and launched both via opportunities at the Foundation and at Westcroft School.
“I’m a massive Wolves fan and got into football when I was at school, maybe around the age of 10,” Mark, now 22, recalls.
“It was around the time of the 2010 World Cup, and I remember watching so many games that year.
“Some of my mates were trying to get me to support other teams but my Dad introduced me to Wolves and got me into it.
“Since then I’ve seen the good times, and the less good times, but I get to as many matches as I can, and have been to couple of the European aways this season.
“As such a big Wolves fan it was always my dream to be involved with the club in any way, shape or form.
“But I probably never believed it would happen.
“I always wanted it, and could see myself doing it, but the question was always: ‘Will I be good enough?’
Mark first started working towards that aim, trying to be ‘good enough’, by attending some coaching sessions whilst at school, run by Inclusion Team Leader Gavin Jones and other Foundation staff.
He was also there at the start of the Wolves Disability team, then called Sporting Chances, as they started training and playing friendlies on Sundays.
When he reached Year 10, he also volunteered to assist with the Foundation’s Soccer Schools, and remembers spending most of the six week holidays helping out.
“It was great experience, working with Gav and all the other coaches,” he says.
“I didn’t know what coaching was about, so it was me learning, not just the sessions but everything else involved – sorting kit, packing footballs, setting things up.”
Showing great talent, not to mention an impressive work ethic, Mark’s promise was quickly spotted by Gavin and the Foundation staff, and he undertook his Level One qualification.
With the Foundation and Westcroft School working in tandem, and support from his family, Mark went on to complete an apprenticeship with Dudley College learning the ropes about school sport, the key curriculum and areas such as discrimination.
From there, having also completed his Level 2 coaching qualification, he was able to split part time work with different projects for the Foundation coupled with some PE and one-to-one tuition for pupils at Westcroft, before, last Christmas, a full-time job was advertised.
Mark went for it and, perhaps in receiving the best present of all, he was successful.
Working as a Cohesion & Inclusion Coach provides plenty of flexibility, certainly when all activities are up and running, including school sports, the PL Kicks project and the Foundation’s Disability teams.
Still playing for the adult disability team, Mark has the main responsibility for coaching the Under-12 side.
There has, of course, been the need to adapt during lockdown, including socially distanced delivery of end-of-season awards, working out how to phase back a return to outdoor activities and session plans for when life hopefully gets back to normal.
“I have really enjoyed the different challenges so far,” says Mark.
“Getting involved in a variety of projects has been good and it is important to remember that every young person we coach or engage with is different and has different needs.
“When I was an apprentice I probably didn’t realise how much work was involved behind the scenes at the Foundation, but I can certainly see that now.
“They do so much for schools, the disability teams, Kicks and other projects, and I really enjoy being involved.”
Gavin, the Inclusion Team Leader, has been delighted with Mark’s progress, as well as his footballing prowess which was seen in a particularly important local derby back in the day!
“Mark was a big part of the disability team’s cup win when, at the end of the first season as Under-16, beat the Albion 4-2 in the final,” Gavin recalls.
“As a player he has moved up the age groups and is now a key part of the adult team, as well as being lead coach for the Under-12s.
“And when it comes to his coaching and his progression, his journey is nothing more than he deserves.
“As a kid, when he first came along to sessions he was always willing to do whatever he could to help, and since then I have seen him mature and grow into the man and the coach that he is now.
“He works across many projects, not just with one group of kids or one group of adults, and has shown he can be very flexible and adapt to all the different people that he works with.
“He has shown he can relate to all of our participants – whether working with mainstream of disability specific – and is a credit to what we do and for how hard he has worked.”
Another to have been both impressed and heartened by Mark’s exceptional development is Helen Bourton, PASS (Partnership & School Sport) Officer for PE and School Sport.
Helen says: “Mark is one of very few SEND children from special schools who have actually gained full time employment.
“Mark is a great ambassador for Westcroft School and Wolverhampton Vocational Training Centre, where he was educated.
“He has gone from strength to strength to also be a real ambassador for SEND for the city of Wolverhampton and beyond.
“Most of us use Mark as an example to inspire other young children to show them that they ‘can do’.”
For Mark, focus now is on keeping going, giving his best, and continuing to try and help the Foundation create opportunities and change lives for all those who benefit from their activities.
At the same time as pinching himself at the location of his workplace.
“For me, getting involved as a player and going on to become a full-time member of staff, it’s been a whirlwind,” he explains.
“To be involved with the football club I support and see the stadium every day, it still feels surreal.
“My Mum and Dad and my family are all really proud of me, and I am just loving doing what I wanted to do since I first went to a Foundation activity all those years ago.”