Blades and Owls work together for all of the city

Football community managers and good friends Marcus Brameld, left, and Mark Todd team up at Bramall Lane
Football community managers and good friends Marcus Brameld, left, and Mark Todd team up at Bramall Lane
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It could have been so good. Sheffield United versus Sheffield Wednesday in an FA Cup quarter-final this weekend for a place at Wembley.

As we now know it wasn’t to be and we’ll have to wait and see whether the Blades can get past Charlton Athletic – the fifth round conquerors of the Owls – on Sunday lunchtime to earn a semi-final place.

If it had have been an all-Sheffield last eight tie the city would have been split.

However, that’s not always the case, and it is becoming increasingly common for both clubs to work together for the benefit of the area’s young people.

It helps when the heads of the respective Sheffield United Community Foundation and Sheffield Wednesday Community Programme are best mates.

Mark Todd (United) and Marcus Brameld (Wednesday) first met when they were both on the books of Manchester United as promising junior players.

Mark, aged 46, freely admits giving Marcus, five years his junior, a hard time in their Manchester digs.

“There was definitely a hierarchy between the schoolboys like ‘Macca’ and those of us who were full time,” he joked. We had a lot of fun and I’m sure I gave him a lot of stick when he’d come over to stay with us during the holidays but it was all character building!”

While Mark went on to play for Sheffield United and Rotherham United in the Football League, Marcus had a successful non-league career. Their paths didn’t cross in a football sense, apart from a few Sunday league matches with Bradway FC, until they found themselves in the same job but at opposite ends of the Steel City.

Marcus said: “There’s a lot of cross over between what the two clubs do.

“We both go into schools all over the city – there’s no dividing line where one club goes and another one doesn’t. We try not to do the same ones and duplicate what the other club is doing but we’re essentially providing the same service.

“The programmes have also moved on. The old image of us going into a school with a bag of footballs over our shoulder and laying on a five-a-side session is a long way off the mark.”

Sport is still at the heart of what Marcus and Mark’s team do. Wednesday, for instance, put on sessions for basketball, table tennis, tennis and boxing, while United specialise in basketball, volleyball, badminton and judo.

But there is also a social inclusion element through the National Citizen Service (NCS) which is a government programme funded by the Cabinet Office for 15-to-17 year-olds from across the country.

Over the next three to four years the investment into the NCS programme for Sheffield is potentially more than £2 million.

Mark said: “The NCS brings young people from different backgrounds together in common purpose.

“It equips them with new skills and gives them the tools to make a difference. It helps them discover the depths of their talents and the scale of their potential, teaching them the meaning of social responsibility by asking them to serve their communities.

“We’re looking at putting together teams of young people to work on projects within Sheffield. It might be tidying up gardens or helping to decorate an old people’s home.

“These will be kids who are in Years 11 and 12. It can be a really powerful thing to get people together working towards a common purpose.”

Although affiliated with United and Wednesday the community projects are self-financed and between them employ 72 members of staff.

And although neither club is in the top flight of English football they still benefit from the riches of the Premier League.

Sport England and the Premier League have committed £16.8 million into community projects that encourage more young people into sport.

The three-year partnership combines the appeal of top football clubs with the experience and expertise of Sport England and the sports organisations it supports, to engage youngsters from some of the most disadvantaged communities.

The investment drives the expansion of two programmes – Premier League 4 Sport (PL4Sport) and a rebranded Premier League Kicks. The funding is equally split with each partner committing £1.3 million a year to PL4Sport and £1.5 million a year to the Premier League Kicks initiative.

When the funding was announced the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Maria Miller, said: “This move will help us leave a real sports legacy from London 2012. Premier League Clubs have great pulling power and this £17 million partnership with Sport England will encourage thousands of young people to try out different sports.”

Premier League Chief Executive, Richard Scudamore said: “Our Clubs have a fantastic track record in terms of investing in and committing to a wide range of good-cause and grass-roots initiatives.

“Premier League Kicks and Premier League 4 Sport are hugely successful examples of that and have benefitted thousands of young people in recent years.”

On the pitch United and Wednesday share a unique rivalry but off it everyone is best of friends and it is to the benefit of the city that they are.