JUST a few weeks ago, the future of Beechwood FC’s under-eights team couldn’t have looked bleaker.
A lack of coaches, facilities, money and, most importantly, players had forced the Corstorphine team to the brink of extinction.
But now, thanks to the dedication of one dad and his band of volunteers, the team is flourishing and not only has an abundance of young footballers desperate to play, but also its own floodlit pitch and a clubhouse.
Father-of-four Mark Campbell heard about the fortunes of the team and accepted the challenge to turn it around.
He had previously co-ordinated the East of Scotland Soccer Development Association’s four-a-side football festivals on Sunday mornings at Saughton Park and also helped out at his children’s school.
With his sons Jack and Lee, both seven, and some other local children on board, he made a start at rebuilding the team from scratch.
Mr Campbell, 31, said: “I knew Beechwood didn’t have anything under eight and I contacted the chairman to ask if he would be interested in setting something up.
“They basically had no coaches, lack of finance, poor facilities and there weren’t enough younger kids coming along. He gave me carte blanche to set it up.
“I started off with five players immediately and worked very hard promoting the club through word of mouth, e-mails, flyers and by approaching primaries in the catchment area. Within just a few weeks we had 30 kids.”
Mr Campbell, who lives in Drumbrae, then managed to strike deals with the Gylemuir Recreation Association, which owns the floodlit all-weather pitch the team now uses, and the local community centre, which has given them the use of one of its buildings as their clubhouse.
Mr Campbell said: “Tracking down the person who could give us the authority to use the pitch was like an episode of The Pink Panther, but we finally managed to get permission and we can use the pitch as much as we want for a monthly donation.
“It’s really helped us with our outgoings regarding pitch hire and it’s great that it’s floodlit because it’s not influenced by the darker nights.
“We have had a bit of fortune with things coming together, but I have really stuck my neck out and put in a lot of time and effort to make this work. Parents have been fantastic, as has the club chairman who has allowed me the freedom to do what I wanted.”
Although he has achieved an incredible amount in such a short period of time, Mr Campbell has even higher hopes for the future.
He wants to double the number of players by the start of the summer, run football camps during holidays and is in the process of obtaining an SFA Quality Mark award, a stamp of approval for the club.
Mr Campbell, who is helped by three volunteer coaches and parents, is looking forward to league games starting.
He said: “I have seen football played at a high standard at under-eights and I really think they will do well.”
His son, Jack, a pupil at Clermiston Primary, said: “I like my dad coaching the team because it means I can get to spend more time with him. My brother plays in the same team, but I’m better than him!”