OUT of the darkness of Covid, Craig Houston saw the light. Or, more accurately, he saw the Stadium of Light.

Come September, it will be the kids at his Sons of Struth Academy that witness the Estádio da Luz in all its glory as they live the dream and the life of a professional for one day only.

They will travel and train like their heroes as a chartered plane - complete with the logo of their team - takes them to Lisbon and into a world far removed from the Glasgow pitches where they hone their skills under the SoS banner.

Coaches from Benfica will put them through their paces before they are given a tour of the famous arena and see the trophies and trinkets that make The Eagles one of Europe's most historic and inspiring clubs.

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A burgeoning relationship between Sons of Struth and Benfica, formed initially through the Coerver coaching programme, has enabled Houston to take 125 players - aged between six and 14 - and their parents, plus 30 coaches and volunteers, to Portugal for a unique experience.

Covid restrictions may have scuppered previous plans but they wouldn't thwart Houston. From an off the cuff idea, the trip of a lifetime has been planned and put in place.

"We thought if we didn’t do anything this year that would be two years without a trip or a tournament," Houston told Herald and Times Sport. "We had raised a lot previously so we decided to look at alternatives.

"I thought originally this was a bit of a crackpot idea, but when I spoke to the coaches and the volunteers about it, they said it was a great idea and we could pull it off.

"We contacted Benfica through Coerver, who are our partners, to make sure they could take the numbers. They were positive, we had great feedback from them so we decided to go for it.

"They were saying that they hadn’t seen as many visitors from the one club, never mind a grassroots team. They were shocked but delighted and it took a bit for it to sink in that we had our own plane coming over.

"There will be nearly 200 of us so they had to look at special arrangements in terms of catering for that many people and making plans for our arrival and how they actually put on the training sessions and the tours.

"They have two training centres, one at the stadium and one on the outskirts of the city so they might look at having one group at each. It gave them some thinking to do!"

There will be established youth sides at some of the top clubs on the continent that have never travelled by charter flight but a Glasgow grassroots team will now take to the skies and aim to hit new heights.

Most of the funding for the £60,000 trip is in place already. The effort is as incredible as it is inspiring from Houston but he is eager to provide the best experience possible to those that use SoS as their outlet to express their love of the game.

"Quite a lot of our kids were coached by Benfica when they came over in 2019 so they have experienced their coaching methods," Houston said.

"To do it in the surroundings over there and be at one of the best academies in the world will be a great experience for the kids and that is what we try to do.

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"We are very much an experience led organisation and we try to do things that the kids will remember for the rest of their loves. Hopefully they will have a great time when they are out there.

"Most of the kids had been fundraising anyway so most have got almost all of their trip done. We have been able to keep the costs relatively low so it is affordable.

"You have other things that you don’t think of, like travelling the same with a travelling uniform on and a change of clothes while you are out there.

"These are things we are looking to get supported with so they are all getting a once in a lifetime experience and looking the part and feeling the part."

The Benfica trip is symptomatic of the way in which Houston operates. He is one who seeks to think outside the box, one who strives to be different but to be better.

He would rise to prominence during the battle for control at Ibrox before regime change in 2015. Once his work there was done and Rangers were saved, he could use the Sons of Struth to create another legacy in the game.

"Proud is the exact word to describe how I feel at times," Houston said. "Sometimes I need to pinch myself and remember that, barring the year of Covid, we have only have five years of training at the club.

"The kids are training with a smile on their faces, some of the players we have got now are very, very competent and there is a style of play with them now.

"We have seen massive increases in the quality of the kids and the standard of play and coaches at the club and now it is at a point where I can sit back and enjoy it.

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"It is a humbling experience to see the kids running about with a name on their shirt that started out as a fans protest group.

"From a strange beginning, it has grown into something that we are very proud of and we have achieved something special."

Houston would help Dave King, Paul Murray and John Gilligan realise their own ambitions six years ago as a reviled board and their associates were removed from Ibrox.

His part in that process would see him cross swords with Mike Ashley and the Easdale brothers, Sandy and James, but the passing of time and Rangers' changing fortunes has altered his role in life.

"It is great now that people don’t see me as the Sons of Struth guy with the banners, they see me as the Sons of Struth guy with the football team," Houston said.

"We have got people involved at the club now that were initially unaware of our origins and didn’t know we were a protest group back in 2013. That is refreshing.

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"I was involved in kids football long before I was involved in protests and boycotts. It did certainly help us at the start and probably helps us today that people know the name and know what we have done previously.

"But it is refreshing that some people don’t have a clue about me during that period and that is testament to what we are doing as a club. we are a football club rather than a protest group.

"I had one of the grandparents watching a game a couple of weeks ago and he said ‘Craig, you will need to forgive my ignorance, I didn’t realise you were that Craig Houston’.

"Now I am Craig Houston the football guy rather than the protest guy and that was nice to hear.

"When his grandson started playing with Sons of Struth, it wasn’t because it was formed out of the protest group, it was because of the work we do as a football club."

Those years on the front line of the fight at Ibrox saw Houston rise to prominence within the Rangers support and his efforts in facilitating regime change should not be forgotten by his fellow fans.

In recent times, he has been able to focus on a very different project and the success of the Sons of Struth academy is a credit to both himself and those around him that give up their time for the next generation.

"It has almost gone full circle, which is great," Houston said. "It is a passion of mine. It is great to be able to give kids experiences like that.

"It is a lot of hard work obviously and it takes up a lot of hours for the volunteers, but I keep saying to people that volunteers are paid in smiles and these kids make me feel like a millionaire.

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"Sometimes you walk in to training, look about and see 60 kids in the one facility all running about with Sons of Struth training gear on, having fun and smiling.

"You need to pinch yourself and remember it started out with an idea to form a football club after the protests.

"I would have dreamt of the desire to get here after five years, but the reality is that it is further ahead that I dared dream of."