A SWINDON man, whose football career was ravaged by injury and mental illness, is looking to bounce back by leading his unique new team into the Swindon Sunday League.

Steve Holmes, 32, was a promising apprentice at Blackburn Rovers in the late 80s before a broken leg brought a premature end to his professional aspirations.

Depression set in, and he was later diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, but thanks to his doctor and the right medication, the condition is now under control and the Toothill resident is keen to act as player-coach of a new team made up of other mental illness sufferers.

The MIND football team named after the mental health charity which has helped Holmes and his teammates hope to join the Swindon Sunday League the season after next.

Holmes aims to stage a series of friendlies in the meantime and the team are kitted out and raring to go thanks to Swindon Town's Football in the Community scheme.

County Ground officer Clive Maguire was only too happy to help MIND realise their dream of competitive football and he presented the new club with a Swindon Town replica kit to play their games in.

"We recognise what a good cause it is and we wanted to help," said Maguire. "They are a smashing bunch of lads and Steve Holmes is doing a great job with them.

"I think the plan is to join the Sunday League the season after next and I wish them all the best."

Holmes first volunteered to help coach youngsters as a means of aiding his recuperation, and a year later began coaching budding footballers from the Swindon MIND group.

The popularity of the sessions has grown to such an extent that a new team has now been born, and Holmes said: "We're looking towards entering the team in a league possibility the season after next.

"Some of the lads aren't quite ready for it yet some have only recently come out of hospital and have never been coached before."

Holmes runs his weekly coaching sessions at Croft Leisure Centre, and hopes to take his side into the Sunday Leagueas a tribute to those that have helped him. "Swindon Town and Swindon MIND have both been first class with their support of me and the project," he said.

Swindon Sunday League officials have confirmed that MIND would have every chance of securing a place in their set-up, and secretary Dave Marsh said: "We would be happy to consider the team on their own merits just like any other."