DAVE Newbery began attending football sessions with Brighton and Hove Albion’s official charity four years ago, having been referred by his treatment centre, St Thomas Fund in Hove.

He was recovering from heroin addiction, had experienced periods of homelessness and was looking for a way to become more physically active and expand his support network.

He was able to find both at Albion Goals, weekly football sessions run by Albion in the Community, where coaches use the incentive of free football to help players fine-tune life skills which can be developed on the pitch but transferred successfully to everyday life.

Following a relapse, Mr Newbery re-engaged with Albion Goals after intervention from the Brighton Housing Trust.

Since then Albion Goals has helped him become more active and recapture his life-long love of football, but it has also helped him sustain his recovery from addiction.

Mr Newbery, who lives in Brighton, is one of more than 230 adults across Sussex to benefit from AITC’s social inclusion programme in the last 12 months.

As well as three sessions in Brighton and Hove, AITC also has an Albion Goals group running in Worthing – each one structured to benefit people at different stages of their development.

Mr Newbery said: “Albion Goals has been brilliant. It has improved my fitness and helped me motivate myself to achieve goals in every-day life.

“It isn’t about whether someone is the greatest footballer, it is about people coming together to just play football and support each other.

“I know when I go to Albion Goals the staff respect me and the other players respect me.

“For someone like me, with the background I have, that is huge.

“I never had any respect for myself, let alone respect from other people.”

Mr Newbery has also completed a leadership course with AITC.

The charity then put him forward to represent England at a tournament with the Homeless FA.

“It was an amazing experience. I went to St George’s Park and then to Portugal. I scored a couple of goals for England - that’s bucket list stuff.”