By Tony Dewhurst

The lady who parks her sandwich van outside Barnsley Football Club's Community Trust office each lunch time, signals her arrival by playing the Match of the Day theme tune.

There's a frisson of excitement in the queue, youngsters discussing their achievements and future challenges and the splendid Academy building, built from the proceeds of Barnsley's one season in the Premier League, is where their Community Sports and Education Trust Chief Executive Wayne Bullimore is based.

He has led the project for a dozen years, drawing on the experience of a lifetime in the game, beginning at Manchester United, where he captained the youth team, shoulder to shoulder with Lee Sharpe, Ryan Giggs and Mark Bosnich, starred for England's juniors and was a regular in the Old Trafford reserves at 17.

"People ask me about Manchester United, but do you know it never felt that special - they signed me at 14 and I was gone at 21," said Bullimore.

"It sounds a bit surreal now, but after training one of my jobs as a kid was to wash Sir Alex Ferguson's car.

"He was just my gaffer and that's the way it was.

"Now I'm out of it, I think why did I ever moan about going in on a Wednesday if we'd lost the night before.

"You are born in this cosy bubble - everything is done for you.

"Now I'm doing a proper job, I look back and feel how lucky I was.

"I had to move with the times and learn new skills."

He has done that most seamlessly, establishing Barnsley's Community Trust as one of the most successful in the land.

"Football in the Community is unrecognisable now in terms of what it delivers," he said.

"It was a very small operation when I started at Barnsley - we'd go into schools and talk to the kids at assembly, and then we'd be off to the shops to buy the food for the community party.

"The early concept of community programmes was to bring ex-players back into the game, and perhaps a stepping stone to getting a job in the academy or reserve team coaching.

"Now it is a high priority for football clubs, first team managers know that it is a big part of the club, and the hook to delivering something positive.

"We've had young adults join us at 16 and still be here three years later, so it has become a focal point for a lot of them.

"Once these youngsters have moved on from us, they are in a better position to progress in life.

"For some of them it might be the routine of getting up in the morning, for others it might be a full-time job."

The Study Support Centre, the education hub, overlooks the pitch at Oakwell, ensuring a panoramic view of the stadium and its prime position acts as a catalyst for inspiration and motivation.

"Although Oakwell is mostly empty while the students are present, there is a constant feeling that something is about to happen and this rubs off on all our students, parents and mentors.

"Education is huge for us now, while our health and disability programmes continue to thrive.

"A college environment is not for everybody. I certainly didn't have a great experience at school, but this is something different, perhaps giving them the start they couldn't find anywhere else."

One of Barnsley's flagship schemes is the Army Preparation Course, a 20 week fitness and education programme aimed at preparing youngsters who want to pursue a career in the Army.

"Of all the courses we've run, the Army Preparation Course is probably the most successful.

"We've had 20 young people from Barnsley gain entry through the selection process, and that's an amazing achievement for our dedicated staff and the youngsters."

The programme also prepares young people with basic literacy and numeracy skills, with the bulk of the fitness work delivered by Barnsley's community coaches, encouraging the youngsters to develop and enhance their skills and self belief for the tough challenges that lie ahead.

"I feel privileged to run the Community Trust scheme with such a dedicated band of staff, and I'm certainly proud of what we have achieved together.

"I made my professional debut for Barnsley, and I've lived in the town for 20 years, so this is my adopted club.

"This is the environment I know, so I feel fortunate."

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