A hugely popular football project in Berwick led by the Newcastle United Foundation will continue for at least another year thanks to renewed funding from Bernicia.

The North East housing association has extended its backing of the Berwick Kicks sessions with £11,500 worth of support from its Community Investment Fund.

The grant will ensure the Friday night football sessions – led by coaches from the Newcastle United Foundation – will continue throughout the 2022-23 season.

Premier League Kicks sessions in Berwick regularly attract more than 130 youngsters aged eight to 18, who are put through their paces by top coaches on pitches at the town’s Swan Centre.

They are designed to channel young people’s time and energy into constructive training, diverting them away from anti-social behaviour.

While the theme of the sessions is very much football and the benefits of sporting exercise, the FA Level 1 accredited coaches are all trained to deal with issues which they may identify or be made aware of during the sessions, including children’s safeguarding, sexual exploitation, hate crime and ‘County Lines’ drugs dealing.

All the sessions are free – removing any financial barrier to local young people taking part.

Participants include Joey Nisbet, aged eight, whose mum said had struggled with anxiety issues when the Covid pandemic hit.

Since starting the Berwick Kicks sessions, Joey has made lots of new friends and coaches are thrilled to see his confidence grow massively as he mixes with other youngsters, transforming him once again into a happy boy.

Sixteen-year-old Shaun Ferguson has been attending the Berwick Kicks project since it first started. He has transformed from a shy child into a confident young man, willing to help the coaches in any way he can.

He now volunteers to referee games and organises youngsters into groups, helping quieter children overcome confidence issues.

Mark Pae, Bernicia Customer Engagement Officer, said: “Bernicia has a long-standing partnership with the Newcastle United Foundation and we are delighted to continue our support of the Kicks programme.

“Engaging with over 130 young people on a regular basis clearly demonstrates the need for the programme and the positive impact it has in our communities.”

Sarah Burn, Newcastle United Foundation Premier League Kicks Coordinator, said: “We are very proud to support and inspire young people in Berwick to play, learn and grow through football at our free Kicks sessions every Friday evening.

“We are incredibly grateful to Bernicia for their constant support of our charity work and thanks to their renewed funding, we can continue working together to create brighter futures for children and teenagers in Berwick.”

Bernicia’s Community Investment Fund supports projects promoting social, economic and environmental inclusion in communities where Bernicia tenants and customers live.