‘I’ve never met a footballer like him’ – How Southampton star Danny Ings left a legacy in Burnley and inspired a town
Feb. 14, 2020
Whenever philanthropy is so heavily-publicised it is easy to question the motive.
Are the people actually interested in helping, or are they more concerned about being seen to care? It doesn’t really matter, I guess, as long as the generosity reaches those who need it.
But it says a lot that the story of the Danny Ings Disability Sport Project isn’t one told too often.
Instead, Ings has been making headlines for his performances on the pitch – and with good reason.
Only Sergio Aguero and Jamie Vardy have more Premier League goals this season than the Saints forward, whose 14 strikes have helped lead Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side away from the threat of relegation.
And on Saturday, Ings comes up against the team who made him famous, as Southampton host Burnley live on talkSPORT at 12:30.
The 27-year-old is fondly remembered at Turf Moor, not just because he guided them to the Premier League in 2014 and banged in loads of goals.
Despite leaving the club for Liverpool five years ago, Ings’ legacy still helps to make Burnley a better place today.
He went viral in 2013 for giving his boots to a young disabled Clarets fan called Joseph Skinner, who later described it as the best day of his life.
But Ings was determined to make sure it wasn’t just a token gesture. Inspired by the encounter, he used his own money to help launch the Danny Ings Disability Sport Project in 2014, empowering people with disabilities through sport.
“There were no specific opportunities for disabled people to play sport around Turf Moor,” Burnley’s Disability and Sport Development Manager Lewis Rimmer tells talkSPORT.com. “Initially we started doing football sessions, that developed into multi-sport sessions.
“We do dance, we do climbing, we do pretty much every sport you can think of because they don’t get that opportunity within the mainstream.
“It went from no sessions in the town to 35 sessions a week in different sports and they were free of charge.”
Six years on, the young Burnley fan who got Ings’ boots now works as a volunteer coach in the scheme, which reaches up to 800 people every week.
“I thought we need to be recognised a bit more by people in general,” Joe said in 2016. “He helped instil a drive into me.
“To make a difference to disabled peoples’ lives and to be seen as accepted within society, it makes me feel like I am part of something.”
Burnley in the Community still does tons of fantastic work with disabled people as part of a wider programme, which includes awareness courses in the local area.
And Ings still touches base, despite playing football at the other end of the country.
“He’s unbelievable. I’ve never met a footballer like him,” Rimmer continues.
“He’s so down to earth and he’s so willing to give something back to the communities he’s playing football for.
“He frequently attended sessions. He didn’t stop engaging when he got his move to Liverpool. He still came back to some of our tournaments to see the players. He regularly checked in with us.
“He’s still stayed in touch with us. It wasn’t just a token thing for him, he was really interested in the impact he was having. He’s still in touch with some of the parents and the kids who attend.
“He’s had a real legacy in Burnley. His name still rings around even though he hasn’t been here for five years.”
Ings has always been motivated by putting smiles on faces. In 2015, he helped four-year-old girl Harlee-Jae Procter complete her bucket list after reading the story of her life-threatening illness on Twitter.
Ings said at the time: “We’re going to contact the zoo and see if we can go there for the afternoon and we’re going to see some animals so I’m really looking forward to that. I’ve never been to a zoo so I’m looking forward to it just as much as she is.”
But he’s always been a thoroughly decent bloke, thanks to his father, who taught him to have time for everybody.
“You teach him not to be selfish. There is no point being selfish. It is ridiculous. There is no need to be selfish in life so if you can help someone, help someone,” Shane Ings told NBC .
“They will help you back because one time you are going to need help. That is a good philosophy to live by.
“If you can help someone it does come around. Karma does come around. He is very generous, almost to a fault sometimes.”
Ings’ story is a classic rags-to-riches tale. His attitude has allowed him to battle against the odds and become one of the top strikers in Europe.
“Great lad off the field – honest lad, works hard,” Burnley striker Jay Rodriguez hit the nail on the head in his recent interview with talkSPORT.
Ings was dropped by Southampton at a young age and brushed aside by Chelsea, forced to settle for Sunday League Football before Bournemouth took a chance in 2008.
Ings has overcome THREE serious knee injuries, one which he suffered in his first training session under Eddie Howe at Burnley, another which occurred on Jurgen Klopp’s first day at Liverpool.
Most of his time on Merseyside was spent in the treatment room after two long-term setbacks, which ruined his career at Anfield.
Darren Bent says Danny Ings should get an England call-up ahead of Euro 2020 - He's the most in-form striker in the country
But look at him now. Maybe his dad was right, maybe good guys do win sometimes.
We should all be rooting for Ings, not only because he might be playing for England at this summer’s European Championship.
Matt Le Tissier, the Southampton legend, told talkSPORT: “Any Englishman who has a run like that should be in the thoughts of the England manager.
“He’s a very intelligent footballer and I’d be very surprised if Gareth isn’t considering him.”
One of the many great things Southgate has done with the national team is fill it with role models and inspiring characters.
We’re invested in the personalities of England stars now, and their impact is cultural.
As one of the nicest guys in football, and one of the most prolific strikers in Europe, I reckon Ings would be right at home in Southgate’s Euro 2020 squad.