Former Scotland manager Gordon Strachan has revealed plans to bring a scheme which uses the power of football to change the lives of teenage children to Edinburgh.
The Strachan Foundation has proved a huge success in the English Midlands where, over the course of the past seven years, hundreds of youngsters have won scholarships in America, or gone to university and into full-time employment, some within football itself.
This week Strachan has brought a group to the Capital, combining the educational aspect of the visit with matches against Falkirk and Hibs Under-18 side while taking in tonight’s BetFred Cup tie between Spartans – where he is patron – and Kilmarnock and Celtic’s Champions League qualifying game against Norwegian club Rosenborg tomorrow.
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Now Strachan hopes to expand the venture throughout Scotland, starting in his home city, revealing the Scottish Government are showing an interest.
While football may be the big draw for the youngsters, all aged between 16 and 19, education is at the forefront of the project, the simple rule being if they don’t attend to their class work they won’t get a game.
Strachan said: “If they don’t keep up with their education, their parents get to know, they can see exactly what they are doing, they can’t hide.”
Initiated by Strachan’s son Gavin, the former Dundee, Aberdeen and Manchester United midfielder has enthusiastically thrown himself behind the foundation.
He said: “Most of them have no qualifications whatsoever for all different reasons. Within three years they can gain enough to go to university. Over the period of time we’ve been operating, five went to full-time football, so many to non-league, but the real good thing is so many have gone into further education and we have sent 250 into full-time jobs.
“A lot of them have social problems but we try to explain to them you choose where you go in life. Just imagine it in Edinburgh, we could take 80 kids off the street, educate them to be good people, disciplined, share, fit and respectful; to grow up to be men. I have to say that I would not be embarrassed with any of them going for a job interview.”
Strachan revealed the youngsters involved come from different backgrounds, the common trait being that “for whatever reason education did not get going for them”.
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He said: “There are kids from rougher areas and had worse experiences than others, but some have come from right good backgrounds. Some are so insecure they literally can’t look you in the eye.”
Strachan is clearly enjoying showing the youngsters his home city and telling them of his own upbringing in Muirhouse. He said: “We were sitting at Silverknowes Golf Club overlooking the Firth of Forth the other night – and when you come from the Midlands of England you’ve never seen anything like that – and I was trying to tell them I did a milk round in that area, from 5.30am and they were asking ‘What’s a milk round?’
“They were falling about laughing, it was like some Dickens novel they thought I was telling them about.”