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Building for the future of football

Chick Young | 14:40 UK time, Monday, 2 March 2009

As soon as I was old enough to learn the meaning of irony, I applied it to the motto of my native city.

For those of us who craved to play the beautiful game, Glasgow was anything but a dear green place.

The parkland culture of the second city of the Empire didn't seem to stretch to football pitches in the fifties, sixties and seventies and indeed beyond.

The owners of a million and more skinned knees will testify to the cruelty of city fathers who decreed that the amateur players should perform on black ash or red blaes.

I either arrived home looking like a coal miner or the victim of mugging in which my assailant had taken a warped interest in my legs.


It was a version of child cruelty, actually.

And here is the real curiosity. In the few public parks where there were grass pitches, they used to dismantle the goalposts in the summer when kids were off school and the nights were light. It was the equivalent of melting ice rinks in the winter.

But worse was to come. Football pitches started to disappear altogether, covered up by motorways and supermarkets.

City planners, hailed as men of vision, couldn't actually see beyond the pound signs.

It was shameful and ripped at the heart of our national sport. And it was a scenario echoed throughout the land.

And trust me, more than any other single factor that is why the game is this country is toiling.

Tell a kid to put down the Xbox and go outside and play. And then try answering the next question. "Where?"

Football is being strangled at birth.

But is that a new dawn I see on the horizon?

I don't have much time for councils, councillors or politicians generally speaking, but I will doff my cap on this occasion to Glasgow City Council, the Scottish Government and others who have invested in Scotland's first regional football centre in Toryglen.

Once a desert of blaes, the land in the shadow of Hampden Park has been transformed, thanks to a £15.7m face lift.

The facility houses the country's only full size indoor synthetic grass pitch with seating for 700.

There are a further three outdoor plastic surfaces and one in good old natural grass. There is even a warm-up area for goalkeepers.

At long last someone has seen the light.

This country needs football as much as football needs its backing. It needs investment, not sound bites from politicians who keep talking until they think of something to say.

The Toryglen experience needs to be repeated again and again from the Shetlands to the Borders.

It is a thing of beauty, more spectacular than even Murray Park or Lennoxtown where the Old Firm inexplicably failed to build a full size indoor pitch. But it needs to breed.

The official opening, early next month, comes a little too late to trigger a production line to salvage our South African dream but one day it will pay dividends. One day a Scotland star will recall how he learned to kick a ball away from the howling gale and the stair-rod rain.

In Glasgow they still haven't given us back the pitches they took away. Nothing like it. They pillaged our land.

But at least this is a start

And for that I would get down on my knees and thank the dear Lord, except even after all these years they are a little tender. It was the blaes, you see.


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