Charlton steward David Hopkins: My Learning Difficulties and Special Needs

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Charlton fans in the Covered End will see David Hopkins in his bright orange high visibility jacket at every Charlton game and there is a lot more to the Addicks fan than his friendly matchday exterior.

We asked him to tell his Charlton story which you can read below.

I have always had a love for football – supporting Charlton Athletic and Manchester United throughout my life, playing football since I was eleven and achieving the ‘Young Player of the Borough Award’ in 1999.

I joined Centre Circle (who support the club on a matchday) in 2009 after a friend recommended the organisation to me. Before joining I had previously worked at Jags Sports Club as a Sports Assistant and, in 2008, had gained a Community Sports Leader Award.

Having a learning disability, I struggled with reading and writing, and feel this really held me back when applying for jobs and attaining qualifications. I struggled with understanding things which impacted my social skills; I feel people have judged me without knowing my true ability.

When I joined Centre Circle they supported me with my English and Maths skills to be able to achieve my Level 2 in Spectator Safety.

This enabled me to become a steward at sporting events all across London. It has been difficult to learn to read tickets and especially to cope with interacting with fans, but Centre Circle have given me an enormous amount of support and have adapted their approach to accommodate my needs for me to be able to succeed in the role. 

Working with Centre Circle has given me the confidence to go on to achieve an FA Level 1 Football Coaching qualification, FA Level 1 Safeguarding of Children, BTEC Level 2 in Commercialisation of Football and an FA Coaching Disabled Footballers Award. All of this would not have been possible without the support and guidance of Centre Circle and Charlton Athletic.

In July 2019, I was nominated and awarded the ‘Employee of the Month’ Award for all of my hard work and exceptional commitment to the organisation. I no longer feel restricted by my learning disability, and I hope to achieve my FA Level 2 Coaching qualification so that I may coach others with disabilities and help them to find the joy in the sport I love. My dream is to coach for Charlton Athletic one day. 

I would like to thank both Centre Circle and all of the staff at Charlton Athletic for their continued support in my career and learning. I would also like to take this opportunity to give special thanks to the following for all the backing they have given me over the years: Steve & Martin Rowden, John & Dawn Little, Darren Betts, Martin King, Jake Mead, and Paul Taylor.

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