Former Albion midfielder George Parris is helping deaf and dumb youngsters enjoy competitive table tennis.

He takes a group to the newly-formed Brighton and District Community League, which is based at the Cardinal Newman School, Hove.

Parris played 88 times for Seagulls when Jimmy Case, who also has hearing problems, was the manager. Now he is delighted to be helping pupils at Ovingdean Hall School.

Parris, who also played for West Ham, said: "It's part of my job. Ovingdean Hall caters for about 85 kids aged from 11 to 17 who have varying deaf and dumb disabilities.

"We give them all sorts of activities to do out of school and table tennis is the one they really love. They can have difficulties keeping the score and not hearing the ball. But they get round it and mix in very well.

"I was used to playing for Albion and West Ham with people who had no disabilities. What I do now teaches me things about myself, like patience."

Parris and his group join 100 players in a competition set-up to revive the sport and help the community. It was founded by former player Tony Denman who has returned to the sport after an absence of 20 years.

He said: "Ovingdean and Hamilton Lodge, another school with deaf and dumb pupils, join in with other youngsters and a few adults from all walks of life.

"Everyone enjoys playing with them. Some are even learning sign language.

"The sport has got left behind in the last 20 years and, although there is a county coach, there was nothing locally.

"I hope we can re-establish grassroots table tennis and the youngsters can progress. But at least it will stop some ending up on street corners doing nothing.

"When I was younger there were youth clubs and church halls where table tennis was played."

The kids mix with adults like Sussex tennis champion Helen Mitchell and former England bowls international Paul Lewis, who play in the league.

It is split into three leagues across two gymnasiums every Wednesday night.

Sussex is the home of the English Association. Now the county, through Denman, is doing something about introducing the sport to a new generation.

Denman is already talking about doubling the size of the league.

He said: "It's already proving a big success. It's something away from the computer and so easy. All you need is a bat, ball and table. Youngsters are loving it and so are a few of the young at heart."

Hollingbury club chairman Carol Beames is also doing her bit to raise the profile of a marginalised sport. She managed the first Brighton and Hove Table Tennis Festival at the Mouslescoomb Leisure Centre.

Beames said: "It was part of the Top Sport programme designed to encourage children to actively take part in sport and promote after school clubs in Brighton and Hove.

"We got 30 children, all under-12s, to enter and they all seemed to enjoy it. There were some good performances.

"We hope it can become an annual event with more schools taking part to find the four players needed to represent Brighton and Hove in the Sussex Youth Games."

Nine-year-old Patcham Junior pupil Alex Sewell, the youngest competitor and a Hollingbury member, won the competition which followed a training session conducted by Dave Berriman, a four-star coach with the Hastings-based English Association. Chris Nunn (Westdene) was runner-up.

Bevendean School trio Jade Sheppard, nine, Tim Little and Aldo Cavero, with Patcham's Sarah O'Loughlin. Paul Kirwan and Tom Roote also impressed.

It was organised and funded by Brighton and Hove City Council.

Hollingbury provided the table tennis equipment and each of the three schools involved were presented with a commemorative plaque and every child got a certificate.