Kids are alright as North Merchiston gets upgrade

Hearts winger Jamie Walker, left, and Hibs defender Jordon Forster met Josh and Rachel Newby at the North Merchiston club. Pic: Gordon Fraser
Hearts winger Jamie Walker, left, and Hibs defender Jordon Forster met Josh and Rachel Newby at the North Merchiston club. Pic: Gordon Fraser
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The footballers of North Merchiston now have facilities to be proud of after the club officially opened its new extension to their premises at Harrison Park.

The use of upgraded changing rooms, showers, a kit room, not to mention a range of memorabilia from throughout the club’s history, will greet the hundreds who walk through the doors every week.

Hibs defender and ex-North Merchi youth player, Jordon Forster, was on hand along with Hearts’ Jamie Walker to officially unveil the new premises that will welcome home and visiting teams from this weekend. The club, founded in 1921, has more than 400 registered footballers.

The £192,000 refurbishment – construction work started in July last year – comes just four years after the sports club reopened a new gym facility that was also fitted with shower and changing facilities as well as disabled access.

Sportscotland, the Scottish Football Partnership and the Cruden Foundation were just some of the contributors this time round with centre manager Catherine Lowe now having overseen the transition of two major projects since taking on the role in 2009.

“It’s great for the footballers that they’ve got their own bit of the club,” she said.

“We will probably never compete with the likes of Spartans but it is a community club.

“We’ve got disabled kids who have come here because nobody else would really have them. We’re all about inclusion and, yes, it’s great to have success on the field but it’s better to be making these kids feel part of something. I think the new facility has reinvigorated our coaches as well.

“When I first came to the club six years ago, it was on the verge of closure as hardly anybody used it and it was falling to bits. But it’s taken a lot of time and effort to get to where we are today but we’re not finished yet.

“We’ve got about 40 sports or activities going on at the club every week.

“Our next project will be the sports hall downstairs. My aim is to stay here until the club’s 100th birthday which will be in 2021.

“After the sports hall we want to do up the canteen area and the foyer and I want to see that through. I’ve started the ball rolling for the sports hall but we’ll just need to wait and see. Perhaps next year ..”

Lowe continued: “I love my job and I’m very enthusiastic about it and to see everything come to fruition is just so rewarding. I can’t thank the Scottish Football Partnership enough for being absolutely brilliant, sportscotland as well and the other funders that have contributed in such a massive way.”

Hibs ace Forster was equally impressed on his return to the club and believes it is now equipped to entice even more players to the club.

“It was really good to come back and see the progress that has been made,” the 21-year-old said. “I spent a good few years here and the club helped me massively to get me where I am today. It’s good to see that kids these days are getting the use of much better facilities which will give them the chance to try and follow their dreams and make it as a footballer.

“I had a really good spell here. My old man was the coach actually and he used to make an example of me all the time but not in a good way! But the club were really good to me, I scored a few goals and played centre midfield so I’ve since moved back.

“Hopefully, the refurbishment will attract more kids to come and learn their trade here.”