YOUNG footballers in Easterhouse are celebrating after community groups joined forces to reopen a vital sports centre in the area.

The Glasgow Times revealed last week that coaches and players were desperate to return to training at the Stepford Complex following months of closure because of coronavirus restrictions.

Now thanks to a partnership between FARE Scotland and Easterhouse Football Academy, backed by Glasgow Life, the centre WILL open again and hopefully, say campaigners, within the next few weeks.

Glasgow Times:

A delighted Daniel Cameron, founder of Easterhouse Football Academy, said: “We have finally got our park back.

“It has been a really stressful few months, so this is the best news possible.”

The rescue plan is part of Glasgow Life’s innovative Community Activation Pilot scheme which has been set up as an emergency response to the current challenges facing the community football sector.

More than 18,000 players are registered in Glasgow clubs.

In addition to Stepford Sports Complex in Easterhouse, Glasgow Life’s football development team and FARE will work with Pollok United at Nethercraigs Sports Complex, and with Partick Thistle Charitable Trust at Springburn Synthetic Pitch.

Glasgow Times:

The reopening of the three pitches is intended to cater for the large number of teams registered in these areas.

Of the football teams registered in Glasgow, 45 percent are in the north east of the city, and 40 percent are in the south.

Daniel added: “After the uncertainty of Covid-19 and the lockdown, we’re delighted that this partnership will allow Stepford Sports Complex to reopen.

“It will give our young people a chance to grow and develop their love for football again.”

Glasgow Times:

He added: “We’re all looking forward to working with FARE as a trusted and respected organisation, and would like to thank Glasgow Life and local politicians for their support in developing this Community Activation Pilot to get our kids playing again.”

Jimmy Wilson, CEO of FARE, said: “This is a very exciting development, and we’re pleased to be working alongside Easterhouse Football Academy in strengthening grassroots football in the area.

“By engaging the local community in football and physical exercise, we’ll enable community integration – and we also hope to use this partnership to tackle youth unemployment, by giving young people access to employment and modern apprenticeship opportunities."

Read more: Community's fear 'gangfights' may return to Glasgow streets if football centres remain closed

Councillor David McDonald, Depute Leader of Glasgow City Council and Chair of Glasgow Life, said: “Reactivating pitches in Stepford, Nethercraigs, and Springburn will allow us to alleviate the immediate challenges faced by the city’s football community, and in areas where we know it’s needed most.”

He added: “We’ll carefully monitor the progress of this pilot scheme and, if successful, we’ll look to extend it to other venues across Glasgow.”

Glasgow Times:

Andy Elliott, Development Officer at Pollok United, said: “With the recent rise in mental health issues in the south west of the city, we’ve been working closely with Glasgow Life as part of a multi-agency approach to support young people and their wellbeing.

“As a team, our main focus is engagement with locals, and we’re looking forward to continuing to build on this and strengthen the grassroots football community at a time when it’s needed most.”

Paul Kelly, Manager of Partick Thistle Charitable Trust, said: “Our contribution to meeting the challenges of this pandemic are well-documented throughout our communities.

“We live in extraordinary times, but hopefully we can demonstrate, once again, that good partnership working, built on trust and respect can provide solutions for the most impossible looking situations."

He added: “We look forward to sorting out the detail with Glasgow Life and getting Springburn open as soon as possible.”