A standing ovation from players, parents and coaches in a packed stand at Netherdale was a fitting send-off for Fred Blackie after 28 years coaching youth football.
As co-ordinator of Gala Fairydean Rovers Youths, Fred has been responsible for developing generations of young footballers in the town.
It began with coaching sessions at Langlee, Balmoral and St Peter’s primary schools, but the formation of Gala Fairydean Rovers Youths in 2006 alongside Garry Fraser took it onto another level.
His dedication to the cause was reflected recently with countless tributes and presentations during a one-hour long ceremony, culminating in the presentation of life membership to Gala Fairydean Rovers FC for services to youth football.
Youths chairman Derek McGill told of how Fred and Garry started the youths so there could be a proper pathway for young footballers in Galashiels.
“They totally reshaped the way the club was run,” he said.
Fred and Garry went round all their contacts and persuaded people to come on board, and teams at 13s, 14s, 15s and 17s soon appeared, along with the only girls’ team in Scotland to play against boys in competitive matches every week.
In 2009 Fred and Garry secured the SFA Standard quality mark for the club which was upgraded to the Development Award last season and, hopefully, when reaccreditation comes up next season, the club will achieve the highest accolade with the Community Award.
“Fred’s passion and commitment to coaching is incredible,” added McGill.
Through his work at Gala Academy, Fred coaches boys’ and girls’ teams, has coached the Borders boys’ and girls’ development squads, given up his holidays to coach SFA summer programmes and Borders Sports Academy squads, Gala Legion Youths and Border Amateur side Gala Hotspur.
He has coached with Gala Fairydean youths since 2006 and at present coaches the 17s girls’ squad.
His football commitment does not just involve his time on the field. Fred is secretary and youth co-ordinator, and member of Gala Fairydean Rovers committee; secretary of the Scottish Borders Junior FA and represents football on the ClubSport Ettrick and Lauderdale committee.
Fred’s coaching expertise and successes has brought him many awards at local and national level. In 2001 he was awarded the Ettrick & Lauderdale, James McLean Trust and Scottish Association of Local Sports Councils Services to Sport awards.
In 2004, his Gala Academy girls’ team were awarded the team of the year after winning the Scottish indoor five-a-side championship, reaching the Coca Cola cup final and the Scottish seven-a-side final under his tutelage.
For his work with this team he was crowned Ettrick and Lauderdale and James McLean Trust coach of the year.
However, the ultimate prize was his award from Sunday Mail/McDonald’s in 2004 for services to grass roots football, which he received at Hampden Park from Kenny Dalglish.
“For me, Fred has been an inspiration and the reason I and many others became involved in the youths,” said McGill. “His passion for the game is faultless and his dedication to football has been mind-blowing.”
Reflecting on a memorable day, Fred said: “I loved every single minute of my time. The club is in my blood and it has been a privilege to see it grow to the healthy position it is now.”
Before standing down, however, Fred ensured all his secretarial duties and countless others were covered for next season to ensure the future prosperity of Gala Fairydean Rovers Youths.