Loyal Stags’ fan Nathan Edge is aiming to represent England’s blind squad in the future following the start of his summer training.
With the help of operations director Tina Broughton, Nathan is currently using the club’s 3G facility to train on prior to attending the England training base in September.
The club have recently purchased a set of ‘blindfolds’ and footballs, specifically for the blind game, to assist Nathan in his training.
Nathan will be moving to Hereford in September, where the England blind squad are based, and his ultimate aim is to represent his country.
“My overall goal is to represent the country at the Paralympics, so we’ll see where I can go but there’s no other opportunities [in the] local [area], so for the club to back this and give me this opportunity is massive really, absolutely massive,” Nathan said.
“It’s just really about building myself up ready for moving to Hereford in September and hopefully break into the England squad, that’s my overall aim.
“I’d love to do that, I’d love to represent my country – and hopefully do a bit better than the sighted team!”
Through The Radford Foundation, the club have supported Nathan with the purchase of equipment and organising a specialist coach, Conor McAteer, to train with Nathan twice a week.
“They’ve obviously provided the 3G facility which is what the blind football is usually played on, so it’s nice to be playing in that sort of environment.
“But then they’ve also provided some funding – I think it’s through the Radford Foundation – to pay for the likes of Conor to come along as a coach so I can get some proper one-on-one training to work on the more advanced techniques really.
“[I’ve had] discussions with Tina (Broughton) about bringing more opportunities for local people because, at the moment, there’s not much in the region.”
The 21-year-old is looking forward to going to Hereford in September and believes the centre will improve his chances of playing for the national side.
“I’ll be there around some of the more elite players across the country and that’s where the England side is based. So if I get there, I’ll be getting around 10 hours a week of proper training, that’s just with a ball at my feet, then I’ll have access to gyms and fitness coaches etc.”
With the backing of the club, Nathan is hoping to develop Mansfield into a blind football base in order to enhance participation in the sport.
“Hereford is the main centre where everybody goes but not everybody has got that opportunity, not everybody is local enough, so I feel like there’s a stage that’s missing and that’s to bring some grassroots football to those who don’t necessarily want to go on and have a career in it (blind football), but just want to enjoy it.
“A bit like myself when I went through losing my sight, I loved football before, then I started to miss it so having the opportunity to be able to get back playing it has brought the love back into the game for me and I feel like there’s a lot of other people who it can do the same for.”