Hometown boy John McDougall buzzing for Birmingham
The Para Lions star is hoping to represent England at the IBSA World Championships in his hometown this summer
England partially-sighted captain John McDougall wants to honour the people who have come before him by winning the IBSA Blind Football World Championship on home soil.
The tournament will take place in his hometown of Birmingham between 18-27 August 2023 and having featured twice before and made his debut all the way back in 2004, the 34-year-old has a burning desire to win the big one in his own backyard.
"I'm buzzing about the tournament, it makes you really proud when you look back because of all the people you remember who have helped you along the way," he said.
"If it is ever going to be set up for us to win it, it will be then!
"Those little things that people do year after year, for me it was my grandad who would drive me everywhere, you never forget them.
"Eventually, when we do lift it, it will be for all those tasks that people have been prepared to do and little favours that have helped us get there.
"We will never forget them and we will be buzzing to compete in Birmingham."
Partially-sighted football explained
Learn a little more about the format of football played by John and his squad mates
And after playing in the finals in 2017 and 2019, McDougall reflects on his superb career so far with pride.
"I think you have got to be able to reflect on what you have achieved,” he said.
"I think people who say they do it and then move on to the next thing are talking rubbish, you have got to be able to look back.
"One big thing about getting better at what you do is being able to reflect on what you do to improve your performance, so I reflect on everything and I'm very proud to have played for England over 80 times, to have worn the number seven and to have captained England.
"We've played in two World Cup finals, and if you can't reflect on your highs, you will never get better. But having said that, we haven't achieved what we want to achieve yet, we want to win that gold medal.
"The lads want it, and the lads believe we will get it, we think it's a matter of time.
"We've got some really talented players, a brilliant spirit and togetherness as a group, as well as brilliant support staff."
And after a visiting teaching service told him about impairment football, the Birmingham Sports star jumped at the opportunity to get involved.
He said “I always loved the excitement levels of the sport and seeing your heroes growing up, scoring, making these amazing passes and the excitement of the crowd as well.
“When I was growing up Birmingham City were decent, so being a Blues fan has been up and down, but they gave me some great memories growing up.
“In secondary school, we had a visiting teaching service that would come in to support you with additional equipment in the classroom and other things.
“They mentioned impairment football and the specifics of it, so I started playing that as a one-off at 14, but I realised that I was alright at it.
“When someone said there was an England team, I started looking into it, and I found out there was a team local to me at Birmingham Sports.
“I went along and trialled at 15 and got into the team that same year."
Launched in October 2021, the landmark disability Football Your Way plan has heralded an increased commitment from the FA with ambitions set to raise the profile of disability football and change the perceptions and social barriers to support more disabled people to play football by 2024.
And McDougall believes that the plan has revolutionised the FA's approach to disability football.
He added: "When I think back to 2004 when I first got involved, it felt a bit like ticking a box, but now we're being treated like footballers.
"The lads love coming here, the facilities are unbelievable and there has been a real shift in the last year or two with the FA.
"Everyone is on a level playing field and everyone is getting the same opportunities which is fantastic.
"The FA have been brilliant, and they have put some really good people in positions of power, we have really felt that shift.
"We really feel part of it, and the other thing is we want to play as much as we can, and that is how we are going to get a gold medal, by spending more time on the pitch together."
PARTIALLY-SIGHTED FOOTBALL: FIND OUT MORE