OUR Publications Editor Dave Bowler sits down with the characters woven into the fabric of West Bromwich Albion. Up next - Foundation Director Rob Lake.
Rob on getting involved in foundation work…
“I think it was the next best thing from being a player.
“I was a player at Middlesbrough, my hometown club. I left school at 16, signed an apprenticeship and was living the dream thinking I had made it.
“I was doing pretty well, we got to a youth cup final and had a good squad, and then one day in February when I was 19 I twisted my knee, was injured and told I’d be out for four weeks.
“24 months later I hadn't played another game, got back playing and - long story short - stopped playing after I was released by Middlesbrough.
“I went to university, did a couple of summers in America coaching and then when I came back a job came up.
“When Steve Gibson, the Chairman at Middlesbrough, set up the community in 1997 there was a role for a health promotion officer… I was fortunate enough to get that job and have been involved ever since.”
On making difficult decisions for the Albion Foundation…
“It’s really tough. It’s tough to say no to people sometimes.
“We have to be true to what we stand for. We have strategic principles and geographical areas where we want to focus - but we’ve got four departments.
“Education, engagement, disability sport and then sport development - we stick within those realms.
“Are we making a difference? Are we raising aspirations? Are we connecting the Club to its community? Are we growing our own staff and are we growing the community?
“If it ticks all of those boxes then we’ll look into it.”
On a decade at the Albion…
“I’m in a really fortunate position that pretty much every day I can go and see something we’re doing which gives me pride and a sense of achievement and perspective.
“I always talk to people about going and watching one of our disability sessions - it’s humbling.
“If there was one standout moment then it’s the 25th anniversary celebration we had at the stadium a couple of years ago.
“It was an opportunity to showcase everything over that period of time. I only spanned 10 years of it but to see the number of people in that room and the videos that were produced of stories and what we've achieved over that time.
"To get the buy in from everybody at the Club, local MPs, people from the Premier League - the feedback we got from that night was something that I'll never forget."