MARK Hateley hit the back of the net 112 times for Rangers – and now he has taken aim at sports facilities in the Borders and Scotland.
The striker turned TV pundit was in Melrose last week to officially open the junior football club’s new changing rooms – named The Engine Room – in the former Gibson Park fire station.
And he believes more third generation artificial sport pitches should be introduced in the region, following the successful project at nearby Netherdale, which saw more than 900 football and rugby players use the surface in its first week.
Hateley told TheSouthern: “Maybe you could see a joint venture (with Melrose Rugby Club) where you could get a 3G area put down for both parties.
“3G is the way forward. CSKA Moscow used it for Champions League football, so it is a perfect surface to play on.
“With the rugby and football taking off, it would be a good joint venture.”
Asked about what the most pressing issue for youth football is in Scotland, Hateley, who did not wish to talk about Rangers’ current plight, added: “It is always facilities – there is not enough in grassroots football.
“In Sweden, Norway, Finland, they have all the facilities in the world for young people to go and train in all sorts of different sports.
“I would say that is the biggest culprit, not having enough public money to put in public areas for kids to train and get coached properly.”
Melrose FC chairman Ray Fenton has led the scheme behind the new clubhouse, but backed the former England player’s 3G call.
He told us: “With the introduction of the 3G pitch at Netherdale I would hope that the SFA, SRU and Borders Sport and Leisure Trust will look to build more 3G pitches in the Borders.
“With children this age, it is not just about football, its about kids getting fit and enjoying the sport, be it rugby, tennis or football.
“The facilities we have in the Borders at this present time, though BSLT are working hard to enhance them, are not at the same level as Edinburgh or Glasgow.
“As chairman of the Scottish Borders Junior Football Association, I will be pushing for more facilities like this (clubhouse) and also 3G (pitches).”
Melrose FC was born some 17 years ago when coaches Jim Darling and Mick McEwan put together the primary school leagues.
But while the club has grown to over 200 players between the ages of five and 16, their changing facilities have remained pitiful, with children having to change in the nearby primary school’s old bike sheds.
Fenton said: “We used to feel bad that the kids were having to change outside in all weathers and they felt like second class citizens compared to other clubs in the Borders. To have a facility such as this can only enhance football within Melrose.”
He added: “It is an absolute minefield trying to get all the funding, so the support we got through Scottish Borders Council, and in particular Linda Cornwall and Councillor David Parker, was immense.”
The club thanked funders the Landfill Trust, William Hill Trust, Community Fund, Sports Council, Awards For All. The build by firm Tom McLeish and Sons was supported by sponsors BSLT, Henderson’s, Buccleuch Arms Hotel, 1st for Fencing, Burts Hotel, Baird’s Butchers, Hyundai/Purves, Clear Mortgage Solutions, Border Orthodontics, Prostrakan and Mitchell’s Glass.