Young football fans at a kick-about session at Sheffield's Mount Pleasant Park got a pleasant surprise when a special guest arrived...

Sheffield United's newly signed goalkeeper Mark Howard joined youngsters at their Kickz session at the Sharrow park, pulling on a Kickz vest and kicking the ball around with them, as well as answering questions about his background and career.

The Kickz project is run by Sheffield United's community division The United Initiative. It provides activities including sports, volunteering, educational courses, youth clubs and dance to more than 600 young people aged between 12 and 19 in the Sharrow and Broomhall areas of the city.

Twenty under-14s were taking part in their regular football session along with Kickz staff and volunteer helpers when the new Blades player arrived.

A number of other Kickz participants were also watching the session, including girls from the project's Street Dance Crew who explained to Mark that they had recently been performing at a Kickz event in Derby.

Sheffield United keeper Howard said: "There was nothing like Kickz organised when I was growing up and it is just fantastic to see so many volunteers involved in this project, as well as the enthusiasm of the young people involved.

"There is obviously some talent around, too - maybe we will see one of the youngsters in a Blades shirt one day!"

The Kickz group also got the opportunity to ask Mark questions and found out he was brought up in London as a Spurs supporter - and that when he first got in to football he didn't play as a keeper.

Sheffield United Kickz co-ordinator Keith Ward said: "Mark coming along has given the youngsters such a buzz. They love football and were thrilled to be able to play and chat with one of the players is a real bonus.

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