For the past eight years former Scotland boss Gordon Strachan’s football foundation has helped turn around the lives of hundreds of youngsters.
But now Muirhouse-born Strachan is bringing the programme “home” to Edinburgh, using football as the driving force to help kids who have fallen through the cracks of the conventional education system.
In conjunction with Spartans Community Football Academy - of which he is patron - Strachan is aiming to give hope to around 20 local youngsters who will combine studying at Edinburgh College with coaching in the sport in which he excelled with Aberdeen, Manchester United and Leeds United.
And he hopes it will be the first step towards launching similar programmes throughout Scotland in places such as Glasgow, Dundee and Aberdeen.
Operating out of a training complex in Rugby in the English Midlands, Strachan is rightly proud of the results his foundation has brought, happily spouting a string of statistics to highlight the successes.
Since it was formed in 2011, more than 300 kids who started off with few academic qualifications into full-time employment, a further 20 or so have won scholarships at universities in the United States and a few have embarked on a professional football career.
Luke Leahy for example played more than 100 games for Falkirk and a Scottish Cup final but, Strachan revealed, a number had moved into football in other areas, as coaches, nutritionists, video analysts and so on.
Stressing the scheme isn’t looking for youngsters with outstanding football skills, although trials will be held at Ainslie Park on May 30, Strachan said: “We specialise in recruiting kids between the ages of 16 and 19, youngsters who, for one reason or another have left school with few or no qualifications.”
While football is undoubtedly the hook, it isn’t, however, just about kicking a ball around - the youngsters will play in Scottish Student Sport leagues and cups - but developing the kids into well rounded individuals with a simple rule, fall behind in your studies and you don’t get a game.
“We had one kid from Nottingham who had gone to school just five days in three years but didn’t miss a day’s training with us - and he had the travel the furthest of all the boys we had.
“When these youngsters walk in through the door for the first time they have insecurities and issues with self-confidence. They leave as different human beings, ready to take their place in the world.
“They learn to work together as a group. They may not be the best football players in the world, but they are better people. After a year with us I’d happily send any of them for a job interview and know they wouldn’t let themselves down.
“We’ve proved it can work, it’s worked in England, where we currently have around 80 students, so it’s a no-brainer. I’m really excited at bringing my foundation to my hometown. But it’s not restricted to kids from Leith or Edinburgh, it’s an opportunity for everyone.”
For those interested to go www.spartanscfa.com/latest-news/strachan-personal-development-certificate-at-the-academy