On Thursday afternoon, the Crystal Palace Under-18 and Under-23s squads met inspirational speaker Charlie Fogarty MBE as part of their wider education from the club.
Charlie was a former Academy player for Birmingham City and Milton Keynes Dons and spoke with the Development sides about his incredible story, aiming to inspire and motivate them both as footballers and people while he did.
At just 15, Charlie was playing for the Northern Ireland Under-16 squad before he was hit by a speeding car whilst crossing the road as he headed out to spend the afternoon with a friend in his native city, Birmingham. The accident left him in a children's rehabilitation centre for six months, where he was told that it was unlikely he would be able to walk independently or talk again.
Since then, he has fought back against exceptional odds to walk, speak and now deliver his commendable message and astonishing story to aspiring young footballers across the country.
And on the pitch, Charlie is back doing what he loves: playing football. Having represented Northern Ireland in two Cerebral Palsy World Cups, he is again playing the sport that's kept him going and explains just what it means for him to do so.
Pausing between jokes, he said, "Following my injury, I don’t experience many nerves. I’ve only been nervous a few times since the injury, and that’s when I played for the Northern Ireland team. The only time. It’s because football has been my life. As soon as I could, I kicked a ball."
But it extends far beyond the parameters of the pitch for Charlie, whose main goal these days is to share his story with the aim of supporting and inspiring young footballers, such as those with the Crystal Palace Academy.
In his own words, he explained that, "Really, I want the young players to take away three main messages from my speeches: the first and all-important one is that anything is possible. That’s a huge message because, from where I’ve been in a hospital bed in a coma to playing for my country at various Cerebral Palsy World Cups, that is anything being possible.
"Number two is: never give up. Never. The third one is persistence; always be persistent. Be persistent with your training, always want to improve. You will eventually improve the more work you do.
"But it’s not just people remembering those three things that I want to achieve with these speeches. Really, I’ve spoken to about 40 players today, if just one of them takes one of my three messages away, I’ve had a good day at work. If I can influence the life of one person, I’ve had a good day."
The Palace Academy players listened at their Beckenham training ground for over 45 minutes, with Charlie delivering two speeches over the course of the afternoon.
Having finished the engaging session, each player will now be keen to return their focus upon their FA Youth Cup game against Bolton Wanderers at Selhurst Park next Friday.
Finishing the day, Charlie left an encouraging, light-hearted word of advice for the team.
"You create your own luck with the hard work you put in," he said. "From now until the game next Friday, they’ve got, let’s see," Charlie paused, changing the topic briefly. "What’s 24x7, are you any good at maths?", he asked.
After a moment, we settled on about 180, only 12 hours wrong.
And with that matter loosely settled, Charlie continued, saying, "They’ve got that many hours to get better. That’s how many hours they’ve got from now until the day before the game. Go and improve on one area of your game in that time. And I do wish them good luck, I’ll be cheering them on!"