Neilston Juniors community development manager Andy Whiteford had something to smile about after the club was awarded funding and granted permission to turn wasteland at their ground into an all-weather training area, which will not only benefit all ranks of the club but the village as well.

Grants and funding have been brought in through various sources including, most recently, the sustainable Neilston Windfarm Legacy, which has played a major part in helping the club come closer to developing the area.
Just behind the main stand there is an expanse of land sitting idle that Andy joked “took its toll on your legs and knees” but has now been green lit to help the club lift others.

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Transforming the derelict bit of ground into a usable area will open up revenue streams and help bring the community closer together, with not only the possibility of going full all-weather in the future but also of nurturing talent on their doorstep and keeping costs down by not having to travel to train.

The club will also be opening its doors to allow locals to use the facilities, which will go a long way to strengthening its position in the village.

Whiteford said: “Part of what we’re trying to do is bring in the youth development through the club and, from two just three years ago, we’ve now got nine age groups that feed into the club, with the oldest being the 14-year-olds.

“There’s some waste ground behind the main stand that I remember training on twice a week as a player, as we didn’t have the luxury of training on astroturf.

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“We’ve got a bit of funding and we’ve got some funding applications in and we’re looking to develop that area and make it all-weather.

“It gives the kids as well as the Junior team the ability to do their training sessions over there and it’s part of the long-term plans to look at the facilities.

“The ones around Brig O’Lea have aged and, before they get to a stage where we can’t use it, we’re looking to get some funding and raise some funds to improve what we can.

“I think the way forward is to be like clubs such as Renfrew, Cumnock and Benburb by becoming all weather and go from using the stadium pitch once a fortnight to every night of the week.

“It’s good for the community and great for the club and we’re working closely with the council and community groups for an area we can use.

“It’s building momentum and it’s one of these chicken and egg scenarios where we need to get as many people in that we can but, to get the facilities, you need numbers.”

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The former Neilston player and manager admits he didn’t fly solo on this project and has thanked his colleagues as the club looks to safeguard its long-term future with positive planning.

Whiteford said there are other irons in the fire but it’s one step at a time as he aims to modernise the club and its surroundings.

He said: “We’re looking at the end of this year and beginning of next year for the training area to be up and running and then we’ll work towards whatever else needs done around the ground.”

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