Young footballer gets new work goal

THE government's New Deal for unemployed 18-to-25-year-olds kicked off in Wales yesterday in circumstances spin- doctors would kill for, thanks to Jamie Bennett, a 20-year-old from Merthyr Tydfil, and local Employment Agency staff who reckon work on the football field deserves as much support as work in a factory or office, writes Tony Heath.

A former schoolboy international, Jamie left school at 16 and drifted into a twilight world, collecting a jail sentence for drugs and motoring offences.

Now fit and reformed, he has been signed on by Merthyr Tydfil FC, which heads the Dr Martens League. He will collect pounds 80 a week - pounds 60 of which comes from the Windfall Tax - to train with a squad managed by Colin Addison, one-time manager of Atletico Madrid. "Jamie will be with us for six months and we're looking forward to seeing him develop," Mr Addison said.

Peter Hain, Welsh Office industry minister, was on hand for a kickabout with Jamie, who declared: "I just love the game. This is a real chance for me. It's something I've always dreamed about." A crowd of supporters and young people from across South Wales gathered at the club's ground for the big event.

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