FORMER Hibs star Kevin Thomson has critcised the lack of facilities for youth football clubs in the Capital, insisting youngsters “deserve better”.
The ex-Scotland international also claimed existing premises were outdated and hadn’t been modernised in almost 20 years.
The News told yesterday how 76 playing fields had been lost to council closures, housing developments and redesignations since 2000 – with Thomson’s former club Hutchison Vale being forced to cancel plans to field three teams in the under-13, under-14 and under-19 age groups next season.
Other clubs, including Salvesen and Tynecastle, also bemoaned the lack of available pitches in the city.
Thomson joined Hutchison Vale as a nine-year-old and remained with the club for seven years before signing youth terms with English side Coventry City as a teenager.
But during a recent coaching session at his first club, Thomson was surprised by the fact the facilities “hadn’t moved on” since he was last there.
“I remember playing for Hutchy as a youngster up at Ford’s Road, and when I went back recently it was clear none of the facilities had moved on since I left,” he said.
“When me and Steven Whittaker were both at Rangers, maybe ten years ago, we went back there to do a bit of filming and I remember thinking then that things looked virtually the same as when I was there as a kid.
“That was maybe 17, 18 years ago and everything, from the changing rooms to the pitches they play on with the river at the back is almost exactly as it was.
“We used to play maybe 40, 50 games a season and we never really had a problem with games being called off because we couldn’t get a pitch.
“I always tell parents the most important thing for kids at this stage is for them to be constantly playing, but if they don’t have a place to do that, they can’t.”
Thomson – who also represented Rangers, Middlesbrough and Dundee in addition to making 138 appearances for the Easter Road side over three separate spells – was one of a number of former Hibs players to come through the Hutchy youth system before joining the club, including the likes of John Collins and Leigh Griffiths, as well as current stars Paul Hanlon and Jason Cummings.
The ex-midfielder now runs the Kevin Thomson Academy after retiring from playing following a short spell at Tranent Juniors, and revealed his own experiences with a lack of facilities in the city, explaining he has been reduced to “begging” for pitch space.
He said: “It’s been a battle for the last six months trying to secure a place for us to train and play. We’re trying to give kids an education, we’re trying to teach them to play the game but without the proper facilities to do that, it’s difficult. These kids deserve better.
“I don’t like using the word ‘begging’ but that’s effectively what we’re having to do to secure a pitch. It just seems a bit pointless to have teams who are struggling for a pitch while some are empty.”