Prince William is teased with gifts from rivals West Brom during Heads Up visit

The Duke of Cambridge, a dedicated Aston Villa fan, today visited his team’s rivals for a very worthy cause – his Heads Up mental health campaign.

William visited West Bromwich Albion (WBA) in part of his ongoing work which aims to raise awareness of men’s mental health, particularly in the football community. Today’s visit was particularly poignant given that yesterday marked the anniversary of the tragic suicide of Welsh footballer/manager Gary Speed MBE. As President of the English Football Association, The Duke wants to highlight that: “It’s a strength to be able to talk about mental health – mental fitness – rather than a weakness.”

Upon arrival at the club’s training ground, Prince William was welcomed by Mark  Jenkins, Chief Executive, Club Chairman Li Piyue and the team captain, former Northern Irish international Chris Brunt. During his visit, The Duke spoke with various players, coaches and West Brom’s manager, Slaven Bilic.

Bilic was delighted that the second-in-line to the throne had chosen to visit WBA, calling it a “privilege” and revealing that they had a “deep chat about those issues that are really important, to young people especially.” The team manager recognised the importance of Wiliam’s choice of football as the basis for the Heads Up campaign: “Young people idolise their players. They’ll listen more to a player than they will their parents or teachers.”

As well as meeting with the first team players, The Duke of Cambridge and Chris Brunt joined Academy Manager Richard Stevens to hold an informal discussion with the Club’s Academy members. During this discussion, the young players were given the opportunity to learn about challenges they may face in their future careers, with the aim of providing them with advice and methods that they can use to cope with those situations.

The Queen’s grandson also met with West Brom’s physiotherapist Fraser McKinney, Head of Sports Science, Richie Rawlins and (former Aston Villa) player Gareth Barry to reflect upon the crucial link between mental and physical health.

The Duke of Cambridge participated in an informal chat with WBA’s Academy players (Kensington Royal)

There was a light-hearted moment when William was presented with gifts for his three young children; The Duke seemed delighted with the presents, despite being from the rival team! The Club acknowledged that Prince George, who was pictured celebrating jubilantly at a recent Aston Villa game, would never be a WBA fan. William and Kate’s eldest son was given a signed football, while Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis received adorable West Brom shirts with their names on the back. William thanked the Club profusely for their generosity, and hinted at a close relationship between his youngest children, commenting that Charlotte would be pleased Louis had been given a present as well.

Ahead of his trip to Oman next week, The Duke of Cambridge also had the opportunity to speak to West Bromwich Albion’s Omani goalkeeper, Ali Al-Habsi, who confirmed on Twitter that he and the royal visitor had discussed the upcoming visit.

Prince William discusses his upcoming trip to Oman with WBA’s goalkeeper, Ali Al-Habsi (Kensington Royal)

William has not been the only busy Cambridge this week; yesterday’s Court Circular revealed that his wife, Catherine, completed a two-day maternity placement at Kingston Hospital in London.


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