A YOUTH football coach who takes sessions in Carlisle has helped produce several senior footballers.

David Ballantyne, known as Balla, lives in Farlam, near Brampton, and runs the coaching service Feet4Football.

Since starting 15 years ago, he has coached several footballers who have gone on to the first-team squads at professional football teams.

These include Newcastle United's Joe White, who was recently on the bench against Manchester United, and Carlisle duo Josh Dixon and Lewis Bell.

Wigan Athletic's Kelland Watts, on loan from Newcastle, and Sunderland's Dan Neil, are also graduates.

Balla, orginally from Haltwhistle, described the focus of the sessions: "It’s all ballwork. Everybody thinks it’s skills, skills, skills.

"But it’s all about being comfortable on the ball.

"If its me and you one against one, I’ve got the confidence in my ability that I could beat you. "

Mr Ballantyne runs sessions five days a week in Carlisle and twice a week in Newcastle, coaching over 500 children.

A former Newcastle United academy coach, Balla does not miss coaching a team.

He said: "I think I can do more good here in the classes. Then [the children] can go and play for the boys’ clubs.

"If I was with a team, I could only work with 12 or so players at a time.

"Here I get to work with more kids a week, there’s more opportunity for the kids."

One of Feet4Football's most successful graduates is 17-year-old goalkeeper Thomas Atkinson.

He played for England three times at the Amputee Football European Championships last month.

When he came to a Feet4Football session last week, many of the youngsters asked him for autographs.

Thomas, known as Aki, said: "I think if you asked my managers they would definitely say that [coming to Feet4Football] helped a lot.

"Even as a keeper it’s quite important to be good with the ball."

While he watched the youngsters, a smile beamed across his face.

He remembered the sessions fondly: "I loved trying to take everyone on.

"I don’t get to experience being outfield often so when I was here I enjoyed it."

Although Balla coaches children every day, including at schools, he said: "It’s not work, I love it. It’s my passion.

"Seeing the likes of Aki and other boys that go onto great things makes me happy.

"When I’m older I can watch them and say that I had a part to play."