A FORMER non-league footballer is helping other ex-sportsmen and women back into shape.

Former Nelson FC defender and manager Michael Donnelly has started up fitness classes aimed at those who have retired from competitive sport.

The 57-year-old has re-trained as a strength and conditioning coach after being forced to retire from football at the age of 23.

Mr Donnelly, of Lowerhouse Lane, also played for Burnley United before a cartilage problem in his right knee curtailed his playing career.

Having completed his personal training qualifications at Focus Training, in Bolton he now runs his hour-long classes at the Spirit of Sport gym in Burnley's Blessed Trinity RC College on Saturdays at 10am.

Mr Donnelly said: “I’ve been doing ladies’ fitness classes for two years but I wanted to do men’s fitness as well.

“Having played football, and knowing a lot of ex-footballers and ex-cricketers, I think more men neglect their fitness than women once they stop playing competitively.

“I’m quite pleased with it at the moment. It’s only been going for three weeks but the feedback has been really good.”

Mr Donnelly has spoken to coaches at Burnley FC about a potential link-up and has approached former Clarets full-back Derek Scott about starting extra midweek classes.

The sessions focus on motor skills, balance, hand-eye co-ordination and movement.

Mr Donnelly, a former pupil at St Theodore’s High School, is also hoping to enlist the help of his nephew, Matthew Donnelly – a personal trainer in the Army.

He said: “So far I’m delighted with how it’s going. I finished with football early and felt it for a long time.

“Too many people finish early, before they reach their potential, and I want to make sure that doesn’t happen as much.”

To contact Mr Donnelly about his classes, call 07549 625396.