Everton FC star Leighton Baines has backed innovative children’s mental health project Tackling the Blues, a joint initiative between Edge Hill University and Everton in the Community.

The full-back visited Linacre Primary School in Bootle, Liverpool to see a project session with a year six class in action, and BBC TV’s Match of the Day were in attendance to capture Leighton’s visit on camera.

Tackling the Blues is an early intervention programme for children in Merseyside’s most disadvantaged areas and has recently won a Times Higher Education award for ‘Outstanding Contribution to the Local Community.’

Leighton Baines said: “Today I’ve been spending some time with these children and taken part in a game of ‘emoji bingo’. It’s been a really fun and enjoyable session but with a really important message. What is being done here is crucial – letting kids know that they can talk about things rather than bottling up emotions and normalising that helps to avoid potential problems further down the line.

“The staff at the schools or those at Everton in the Community and Edge Hill University do the hard work behind the scenes in setting these sessions up so it’s important that we give an hour out of our day to support these programmes.”

Leighton Baines and a year 6 pupil take part in ‘Emoji Bingo’.

Andy Smith, Professor of Sport and Physical Activity at Edge Hill University said: “Given our recent national success at the 2016 Times Higher Education awards, we were delighted when we heard that such an iconic show as the BBC’s Match of the Day also wanted to cover the research-led impact of Tackling the Blues which we have delivered in partnership with Everton in the Community for two years now. That the University’s sport and mental health work continues to be recognised internationally by research users and beneficiaries, and by the popular media, is testimony to the hard work of all involved in making a positive difference to the mental health of vulnerable children and young people.”

L-R Mike Salla (Everton in the Community), Professor Andy Smith (Edge Hill University), Kass Brown (Linacre Primary School), Leighton Baines, Jon Jones (Edge Hill University) and Rachel Wilcock (Edge Hill University) with Linacre Primary School children.


Jon Jones, Edge Hill Project Lead for Tackling the Blues said: “To have Leighton come along to spend such a lot of time speaking with some of the Tackling the Blues participants was testimony to the impact the programme has on the lives of children and young people. Like that of his Club’s charity, Everton in the Community, Leighton – a Dad himself – was immensely enthusiastic and keen to understand how we work with schools and young carer groups to benefit the mental health of children and young people. We are delighted that he felt able to provide such high-profile support to the programme, and was so keen to win at our mental health themed emoji bingo game!”

Kass Brown, teacher and PE Leader at Linacre Primary School said: “The Tackling the Blues sessions have really helped the class to come together and gel; to be more tolerant and aware of each other’s feelings. They all look out for each other and have enjoyed the project from the start.”

Tackling the Blues was shown on BBC1’s Match of the Day on Sunday 26 February. The episode is available on BBC iplayer here