A football team which launched in Pollards Hill in Mitcham back in 2019, has since gone from strength to strength unlocking and nurturing future talent along its way.

On April 26, 2019, PCSO John Joseph, took a group of U15 year old youths known as Pollards Raising Stars, into the Epsom & Ewell league where in their inaugural year, they reached a cup final and came second in the league to Walton, a semi-pro team that had been established for years.

John Joseph, who is also known as JJ in and around Mitcham, formed the group and took on the role with Patrick, a coach from Fulham Foundation, with the aim to get teenagers and young adults off the streets and onto a football pitch, where social development can take place.

MORE: This amazing group of youths is bringing Mitcham together

“The ball has always been the excuse to attract youths into a sporting environment, and once there, they have benefitted from the social development that has taken place by developing positive relationships with each other and those involved in running the project,” JJ told the Wimbledon Times.

In the second year, the boys once again came runners up to Walton in the same league and reached their second consecutive cup final after a hard-fought victory over Nork, only to find the final being cancelled by lockdown.

In their third year together, season 2020-2021, Pollards Raising Stars found themselves in the more competitive South Surrey Youth League, which is a combined league of teams made up of players aged 17-18.

Wimbledon Times: Pollards Raising Stars Pollards Raising Stars

Even with some of the players being slightly younger, the Stars rose to the challenge and sat on top of this leagues Division 1 from October to December until Covid lockdown once again stopped play.

When the season started again in March, the Stars picked up where they left off and ended the season as league winners. Their performances led one opposition manager to say they were the best team he had seen in the last three years.

Since its launch, JJ has moved into his new role in a central engagement team based at New Scotland Yard as the Met’s Premier League Kicks Coordinator, he said: “The Premier League Kicks programme opens many opportunities for young people, the Pollards Raising Stars initiative being one, and this has brought about so many benefits.

"From there now being a more positive relationship between youths on Pollards, the local police and other stakeholders, to quite a few players from this team now continuing their journey with local semi-professional football academies and paving the way for others to follow.

“The areas around teamwork, communication, leadership qualities and decision making are the areas that the project focused on developing.

The project was also about putting pride back into the community, raising self-esteem amongst those taking part, along with getting them to recognise their potential.”

In their final season as Pollards Raising Stars U17s, the boys have ended up winners, leaving behind a great legacy with many great memories for everyone connected with this journey.

Wimbledon Times:

 “They’ve gone from being a bunch of individuals to a team,” JJ reflected.

“Sports has helped some [ of them] decide on sporting career paths and has enabled them all to stay safe and healthy and become decent and respectful young men.

“Five of the players have joined Carshalton Athletic Academy where they are studying for their BTEC in Sports Science.

“As a representative of the Met Police, the quality time that I have had through my engagement with the players has been priceless.

 “Youth engagement is so important and initiatives like the Premier League Kicks programme, which is where all of this started from, are so vital and effective in helping to develop young people, entertain them and help them to develop a sense of belonging and positive relationships.”

The journey now continues with another crop of youths from Pollards who will represent the area as U13s, U11s and U9s in the Epsom & Ewell league.