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Crystal Palace players face 'Junior Journos' with Utilita

Crystal Palace trio Christian Benteke, Damien Delaney and Patrick Van Aanholt took part in a press conference with a twist at Copers Cope Training Ground when they faced a room of budding journalists, aged either 10 and 11.

The pupils, from St Mark’s Primary Academy Croydon, were invited by Utilita Energy, Crystal Palace FC Official Energy Partner and the Palace for Life Foundation.

Children asked players questions about everything from who their biggest inspiration was to which team-mate they thought had the worst haircut.

Damien Delaney, who was forced to admit his teammates often dubbed him the ‘worst dressed player’, gave the youngsters some vital words of wisdom and encouraged them to work hard at their dreams.

He said: “It was really good, kids always ask the most curious questions!

“Lots of kids want to be professional footballers and hopefully we were able to give them some good advice today and you never know, maybe one day some of them will go on to believe they can do it too.”

Children were treated to a look behind the scenes at the training ground, taking a look inside the kit room and walking out onto the training pitches.

St Mark’s pupil Liam was overwhelmed by the experience: “As soon as I came into the carpark I just cried! The experience was amazing, something that I have dreamed of – going to see players and talking to them.

“Getting the chance to talk with professional players like Christian Benteke was a once in a lifetime experience. I hope I never forget this moment!

“My questions took a lot of thought, I spent a lot of time thinking about what I wanted to ask them and I enjoyed myself a lot.”

Fellow year six pupil at St Mark’s, Allegra, added: “I found it really exciting, it’s so rare for someone to be able to do this, so for me to have that opportunity is the most amazing thing in the world.

“Seeing the players was so good, I wanted to learn what they do in their spare time and what happens off the pitch, because you usually only see them playing football.”

Pupils were accompanied by their teacher, Judith Glencross, Literacy Lead at St Mark’s, who explained what the trip meant to them: “They’ve been so excited and so animated all day, they know all of the players, they just can’t wait to get back and tell everyone about what they’ve been able to do!

“It has actually been quite moving for some of them, the whole experience of this day and talking to the players means so much to them.

“The fact that Crystal Palace and the Premier League have a link with the community is so important, and for these children and their ambitions, to see that just makes a world of difference.”

James Heyes, Communications Executive at Utilita, explained the thinking behind the initiative: “We have quite a few partnerships within Football and one of the main reasons is to get involved with the local community, which is at the heart of any club.

“Our key demographic is families and one of the main things for us is getting kids involved – this experience takes them out of their normal routine and gives them a day to remember. If we can help facilitate that, then that is fantastic.”

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