In the video below, you can watch Roy Hodgson take charge of a different type of training, as he led Palace for Life Foundation’s Down’s Syndrome Eagles at their weekly session last week, helping players with their shooting skills and refereeing a match.
The Palace manager surprised the delighted young footballers, who range in age from eight to 24, arriving to cheers and high fives at the Monks Hill Sports Centre in south Croydon.
Hodgson, who first met the players back in September at a Foundation event, said: "This group are just fantastic; their enthusiasm, their humanity and their affection, it’s very difficult not to enjoy their company. When I was asked to come here, I was more than happy and it’s great to see them all again.
"It’s not just about coaching, it’s about enjoyment, pure and simple. The main thing is that they go home each week having really enjoyed it, having had fun and a lot of encouragement and positivity."
The team has been together for five years, training weekly and taking part in friendly matches and tournaments against other clubs. Sessions are based around football skills and small matches, but are also vital in helping players to develop their social and communication skills, as well as motor skills such as agility and coordination.
Hodgson continued: "Sometimes when you’re working at the top level, you forget the real basics of what football means to people. We get caught up in the winning and the losing and the hype around the professional game, but really football is this, it’s people coming out with their children on a cold autumn night and watching them enjoy themselves, with no worries about anything other than that."
The DS Eagles were also treated to a visit from Palace Women’s players Freya Holdaway and Ashlee Hincks, who joined in with the training session and played in the match alongside the players. Holdaway and Hincks ensured the session ended on a high for the players by inviting them to be mascots at their game against London City Lionesses last Sunday.
Hincks said: "It was an absolute pleasure to be here tonight, I think we enjoyed it more than the players! They’re so enthusiastic and proud to play for Palace. We’re really excited to see them again on Sunday, when they’ll be walking out alongside the team."
Watch Hodgson and the DS Eagles team training below!
This article has been adapted from Palace for Life Foundation's website. You can read more about their fantastic work by clicking here now. And to find out more about the DS Eagles, contact MichaelHarrington@palaceforlife.org.
This season, the DS Eagles are being supported by a new sponsor, Croydon-based computer games retailer, Go2Games, who have provided the team with professional new training kit and crucial funding.