By Tony Dewhurst

Just sitting with Mick Dennis, talking and drinking tea for half an hour on a weekday morning, does more to rekindle the old deep enthusiasm for football than half a dozen evenings of watching the swirl of incoherent energy of televised football.

The grassroots game has probably no greater champion in the national press than Dennis, the Daily Express' thought-provoking columnist and football correspondent.

We meet in the small cafe above Wembley Arena, ahead of the National Citizen Service Graduation Ceremony.

"It is easy to be cynical when a government claims that they've got this big idea - but The Football League Trust has embraced the National Citizen Service as an opportunity and they've made it work," he said.

"In a summer which ended with terrible stories about young people rioting, there was also hundreds of teenagers who spent their summer achieving something special and that has to be admired."

The National Citizen Service brings together 16-year-old's from different backgrounds in a programme of challenges and learning, enabling them to develop the confidence they need to become more involved with their communities and to become more responsible citizens.

"I've seen first hand how the power of football can change lives and this scheme, through The Football League Trust, seems to be doing that," he said.

"It was incredible to see what these kids had achieved, they were genuinely motivated.

"I once recall listening to a Somali asylum seeker speak at a forum. He had battled depression and didn't speak much English.

"He lived in a hostel, but eventually got involved in the Kickz Project as a volunteer.

"Through his love of football and having had that opportunity, it moved his life in a different direction.

"The Football League Trust, I have no doubt, has built and improved a lot of things in football."

Mick Dennis' work has been quoted in Parliament, inspired the name of a fanzine and he collaborated with referee Graham Poll on his autobiography.

The next day he was off to interview Real Madrid's superstar Cristiano Ronaldo in Madrid.

The Daily Express had exclusive access to him at the world premiere of a new documentary about Ronaldo.

"My favourite moment was inside the venue, an old bullring," said Dennis.

"Ronaldo wondered out loud whether there was any water available.

"One of the two dozen people fretting about him looked up from her clipboard to call out: 'Water! Laura, are you on that?"

Mick of course, has seen football change beyond recognition in the last couple of decades, the wages, the profile, and the way the game is now perceived.

He added: "There are plenty of people out there who are willing to knock football, so when I started seeking out good stories, to justify my belief that football wasn't just about reprobates and violence, they were easy to find.

"I saw that clubs were doing social inclusion, education and health work, via The Football League Trust, and that there were many great stories out there.

"My exposure to that, more than anything else, convinced me to stay involved."

Football League Trust General Manager Mike Evans said: "National Citizen Service has shown once again that young people are inspired to do amazing things, particularly when challenged outside of their comfort zone.

"It has been an honour for The Football League Trust to be selected by the Cabinet Office for this NCS pilot."