A FOOTBALL coach fears a ‘return to gang fighting’ on the streets of Easterhouse if a local sports facility remains closed.

Daniel Cameron, who set up Easterhouse Football Academy in January at the area’s Stepford Complex says the initiative has helped break down barriers in the community.

Like other sports centres and cultural facilities, it had to close down at the start of the coronavirus outbreak.

Now that some of Glasgow Life’s facilities are re-opening, Daniel has ‘begged’ the council to put Stepford on the list but it remains closed.

“The Academy has really brought all the kids together, it has stopped the gangs fighting because they all got to know each other,” he adds.

“No-one wants a return to those days. But I’m worried, like the other coaches and the parents, that that’s what will happen if we can’t get it restarted.”

Glasgow Times:

He adds, angrily: “Since the changes to Covid restrictions, other facilities like Toryglen and Glasgow Green have reopened, but not here. Easterhouse has been left behind.

“We are begging the council to get it open again. Otherwise, we’ll have kids hanging about on the streets, with nowhere to go.”

Junior Gilmour, 12, says he is desperate to get back to training.

Read more: 'Will I ever hug my mum again?' - care home relatives demand end to 'prison-style' visiting

“We need it to open to train on a better surface and to get somewhere that’s on all the time,” he adds. “It’s somewhere we can see our pals too.”

Steven Rodger, who is nine, agrees.

“It’s a cracking place to play football,” he says. “We used to go there all the time with our friends and now we can’t because it’s closed.”

Daniel’s passion for football stems from a childhood love of the game. After playing himself, he had to give up because of a knee injury.

He set up Easthall Star Amateur Football Club in Easterhouse 30 years ago. Along with other AFC teams, including Cranhill and Clyde, it uses the Stepford Complex for training.

Daniel estimates around 200 young people and 100 adults are ‘losing out’ because of the continued closure.

Glasgow Times:

“We are not looking to do it for nothing, we want to pay,” he says, in exasperation. “We even got funding from the council to do this, and it’s so galling that we can’t do anything with it.”

He set up the Academy to encourage young and boys and girls to develop their skills and make new friends, tying in with the Euro 2020 tournament due to come to Glasgow this year until the Covid outbreak.

“I got a lot of help from our local football development officer Steven McKie, who is fantastic,” he says. “It’s open to kids aged from five to twelve, and all 22 of our coaches are volunteers.

Read more: Charity slams decision to cut 'lifeline funding' to services for Glasgow's older people

“My daughter Samantha helps out too – she is amazing, she handles all the paperwork. We are all doing it for the kids and there’s a great atmosphere, some fantastic players, and it’s a lot of fun.

“We just need the pitch to open. Even getting a date to work towards would feel like winning the lottery.”

During the lighter evenings, some of the young people have turned up to sessions Daniel has run outside the complex.

“We just tried to do it on any grassy bit of land we could find, just to keep things going,” he says.

“But now the evenings are darker earlier, we can’t do that any more.

“It’s crazy – the pitches are lying there empty apart from a bunch of seagulls.”

Glasgow Times:

He adds: “It’s really affecting my own mental health now, I’m so worried about what will happen – I just don’t want to let the kids down.”

A spokesperson for Glasgow Life said: “We have been very clear that the financial challenge facing Glasgow Life because of Covid-19 is unprecedented.

“We know people love and value the services and venues we deliver but since lockdown began we have lost £14m of income from memberships and ticket sales to-date and expect to lose tens of millions by the end of the financial year.

“We’re currently working on reopening a number of our venues across the city in line with Scottish Government guidance, and have already reopened the iconic Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, several libraries, and some outdoor golf, lawn bowls, tennis courts, and pitches. Our first indoor sports venue, Scotstoun Leisure Centre, opened on Monday, September 14.

Glasgow Times:

“We will continue to work with Glasgow City Council to review and prioritise which venues and services we can restart or reopen and when, but it is highly unlikely that Glasgow Life will be able to return to anything like its normal service provision in the near future.”