Inside Lines: Old Trafford to set up counselling sessions

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The Independent Online

Troubled Manchester United are calling in the counsellors at the urging of their former star Sir Bobby Charlton, now a club director. But it has nothing to do with recent misfortunes. Charlton has persuaded the United board to open the ground during the week for sessions in which disturbed local youngsters can talk over their problems with doctors, psychiatrists and club personnel. This follows a similar scheme which Charlton has helped set up with nearby Macclesfield Town through the Laureus Sport For Good Foundation, of which he is an academy member. With fellow members Ian Botham and Tanni Grey-Thompson, Charlton has worked with Third Division Macclesfield on a trail-blazing community relations project whereby youngsters suffering from depression can be given guidance through a series of discussions and activities at the club. Each will be given the means to deal with issues in their lives by learning from football-related scenarios, and given work activity around the club. Charlton was so impressed

Troubled Manchester United are calling in the counsellors at the urging of their former star Sir Bobby Charlton, now a club director. But it has nothing to do with recent misfortunes. Charlton has persuaded the United board to open the ground during the week for sessions in which disturbed local youngsters can talk over their problems with doctors, psychiatrists and club personnel. This follows a similar scheme which Charlton has helped set up with nearby Macclesfield Town through the Laureus Sport For Good Foundation, of which he is an academy member. With fellow members Ian Botham and Tanni Grey-Thompson, Charlton has worked with Third Division Macclesfield on a trail-blazing community relations project whereby youngsters suffering from depression can be given guidance through a series of discussions and activities at the club. Each will be given the means to deal with issues in their lives by learning from football-related scenarios, and given work activity around the club. Charlton was so impressed with the ideals of the project, termed It's A Goal and supported by organisations such as Mind, that he has persuaded fellow United board members to introduce a similar one at Old Trafford. He says: "Depression, often drugs-related, is a major issue among kids today. It causes 7,000 suicides a year and I really believe sport can help tackle that. If one of the smallest clubs in the country can do it, the biggest one can. Hopefully, so can every other club. If it stops one lad killing himself, it will be worthwhile." Charlton is involved with several of the 21 Sport For Good projects around the world. "Sometimes sports personalities can get down to the nitty-gritty where politicians can't," he says.

Can Jonny win for England in Portugal?

Just what impact England's rugby World Cup triumph has had globally will be determined in Estoril in May. Jonny Wilkinson and the England team are among the nominees for sport's annual Oscars, together with athlete Paula Radcliffe and disabled equestrian star Nicola Tustain, a Paralympics hopeful. The diamond-encrusted Laureus Awards bash for sport's beautiful people takes place a month before Portugal hosts Euro 2004, but not a single UK-based footballer is short-listed, a point noted with some disappointment by Sir Bobby Charlton. "The game here has been rather overshadowed by the rugby achievement," he admits. "But I am hopeful that next year will be different, with some of the Arsenal lads up there. And, of course, Manchester United when they win the Championship again." So has he written off United's season? "Well, we'll try to win everything we're in, but it's not the end of the world if we don't. It hurts but we'll stop the bleeding soon. And I certainly wouldn't presume to tell Sir Alex what to do."

Belter of an occasion for Bruno

According to Clare Balding, boxing is a bent, dirty business (not at all like that straight, clean sport of racing she writes about). But it has one hell of a heart. On Thursday, at London's Dorchester Hotel, cauliflower ears will be sponged and pressed to honour Frank Bruno, who has not had the happiest times of late. Bruno never fought for the British heavyweight title so never won a prized Lonsdale Belt. But members of the Lonsdale International Sporting Club have arranged for his old verbal sparring partner Harry Carpenter to present him with one - with Frank's image as the centrepiece instead of Lord Lonsdale - in recognition of his career and charity work. Nice one.

Carry on testing is the message delivered to UK Sport by the independent review body which has examined the role of Britain's government-funded anti-doping agency, which has also recommended a number of structural changes to the programme. But they will do so without high-profile drugs czarina Michele Verroken. While they still decline to confirm her official departure, I believe severance terms were settled last week. Verroken, who is likely to be snapped up by the World Anti-Doping Authority, was axed by incoming chair Sue Campbell, along with popular chief executive Richard Callicott. He is now set to return to organising major sports events for Birmingham Council. Reasons for their shock departures have never been made known but sports minister Richard Caborn says mysteriously: "There was an inevitability about it. Sue went in there with a very clear remit to modernise UK Sport. Obviously, she did not take certain actions without consultation but having put her in there I had to back her."

The sports minister was less than pleased at having to conduct his Radio 4 spat with predecessor Kate Hoey over playing fields on his mobile phone from Cheltenham last week.

For all their broadcasting facilities at the Festival, the Beeb were unable to provide him with a direct link to the London studio. No doubt this is something he will be discussing with his new spinmeister, the BBC Radio Four man John Evans, who takes over as his media minder from Phil Townsend, now Manchester United's spokesperson. Evans has a background in both politics and sport; he is the producer of Westminster Hour, helped launch Radio 5 Live and has also been in charge of sports news coverage on Radios 2 and 4.

insidelines@independent.co.uk

Exit Lines

I put on my boxing gloves and just go mad. How Tara Palmer-Tomkinson says she releases her pent-up emotions... He wouldn't have been the player I'd have gone for. I'm not interested in how many shirts you sell. Real Murcia's John Toshack says he would not have signed David Beckham for Real Madrid... 47 is something there is no excuse for. West Indies captain Brian Lara masters the understatement... The place is a bit of a shithole. Blackburn's Aussie Lucas Neill endears himself to the locals.

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