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Proud: Howard Holmes, third left, with Arthur Wharton's granddaughter Sheila Leeson, Trevor Brooking, Brendon Batson and Cyrille Regis
Proud: Howard Holmes, third left, with Arthur Wharton's granddaughter Sheila Leeson, Trevor Brooking, Brendon Batson and Cyrille Regis
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HE’S been kicking racism out of football for years.

Now the director of one of Sheffield’s best-known and most successful community organisations is to step down after 16 years .

Blades fan Howard Holmes helped set up Football Unites, Racism Divides in 1995 and has overseen its growth into a pioneering, award-winning project with both a national and international profile.

Under Howard’s leadership, FURD helped uncover the long-lost history of Britain’s first black professional footballer, Arthur Wharton.

He also discovered the talents of star footballer Kyle Walker, who was recently called into the England squad but was first spotted playing at one of FURD’s coaching sessions, aged just nine.

The project’s significance and importance to the local community was underlined last year when the Government gave the go-ahead for the new £3m U-Mix Centre off Bramall Lane – FURD’s home when it opens next year.

Howard said: “FURD has been my proudest achievement in a long career spent working with young people in Sheffield. I’ve had some exciting times and even got to meet Pele! We have a remarkable team of workers and young people at the project who are well-placed to fulfil the bright future for FURD represented by the U-Mix centre. To be honest I don’t really want to leave but it’s time others had a go. I’m really looking forward to contributing to the Arthur Wharton Project and will always do my best to keep the project’s profile high and funded properly in these difficult days for youth services and young people.”

Although stepping down as director, Howard will continue his involvement with FURD through the Arthur Wharton Heritage Project and a research project on the ability of football to break down social barriers.