Legends turn coaches in Harlem

Ashley Cole and Michael Essien wrapped up their trip to New York by joining the Chelsea Foundation for a special coaching session in Harlem on Tuesday.

The pair were special guests at the Frederick Douglass Academy in Manhattan, where coaches from the Foundation and our partner club, FC Harlem, were putting the kids through their paces with a series of drills.

What the Chelsea Foundation is doing is a brilliant thing, giving young kids a chance and trying to keep them off the streets. They are staying in the community, which I think is amazing,’ Cole said.

‘I grew up in a tough neighbourhood in London. Football kept me out of trouble, on the straight and narrow, and hopefully this is what we can do for them.’

After the session, they joined representatives from FC Harlem at the proposed site for our brand new Blue Pitch facility, a short distance from our partner club’s current home.

Ian Woodroffe, the Foundation’s international development manager, said: ‘This will be a field pulled together with support from local agencies – a space that can be used in the winter months that is covered, lit, and will enable us to do a lot more for the community here.

‘Our coaches are here working with the FC Harlem coaches delivering education and training, but also in the community coaching young players in schools around the area.

‘Here in New York we work in around 20 schools and have coaches based on the ground engaging different communities and working with FC Harlem week to week.

‘Soccer is a big tool to engage kids. We want to develop them and make them better, but as part of the Lions programme with FC Harlem, there is homework support, enrichment, job and life skills to help empower them with tools to be positive citizens in the community and aspire to bigger and better things.’

Earlier in the day, Essien and the Premier League trophy joined Cole Wilson, a photographer based in New York who has been supporting the Blues for over 15 years, for a ‘dream photoshoot’.

Hosting the Chelsea legend in his Brooklyn studio, naturally Cole’s creative staging was geared towards the colour blue, and you can see one of his shots above. The video below shows you more of the creative process...