A HOMELESS squaddie has swapped bullets for goals to shine as the star of a major football tournament.
John Brash, 26, from Tranent, is in Poland this week as Scotland goes for a record third win at the Homeless World Cup, having won the title in Denmark in 2007 and France in 2011.
The forward has already scored four goals in two games – including a hat-trick against India in a thrilling match which Scotland won 8-1.
But just months ago the former army trooper was desperately trying to keep a roof over his family’s head and was fearful of what the future held.
He said: “I found myself homeless after I left the armed forces on compassionate grounds when my mum became ill.
“The place I moved into didn’t work out and I didn’t really receive any support. I ended up staying at my friend’s and then at my brother’s but I didn’t have a place of my own.
“But then I managed to get temporary accommodation through the charity Shelter.”
He was selected for the Scotland squad after completing a street soccer programme called Football Works, an 80-hour personal development programme that combines coaching activities, training and one-to-one support.
The course went so well that John, who is now in temporary accommodation with fiancée Stacey, 22, and their 18-week-old daughter April-Jane, has been taken on as a volunteer and will continue coaching when he gets back from Poland. In the meantime, he’s looking forward to putting his playing to the test against some tough sides.
Of his tournament form, he said: “I’m both nervous and excited. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play for your country.”
The Football Works scheme is backed by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson. It uses football to improve the chances of people who have experienced homelessness and addiction to get a job.
John, who was based at Dreghorn with the Royal Regiment of Scotland (1 Scots), said: “I was referred to Football Works through the Jobcentre and they signed me up straight away.
“It went really well and once the course was over they asked me to stay on as a volunteer. The work has definitely made me a more confident person. I really enjoy it and I’d like to continue coaching in the future.”
The programme was set up in April 2012 by Dunedin Canmore Housing and social enterprise Street Soccer Scotland, which manages the Scotland team. Football Works is also supported by Edinburgh College and Foursquare Scotland.
Kirsten Marwick, Football Works personal development and training co-ordinator, said: “Programmes like this help people build their confidence and work towards building their future in a more positive way.”