Few have done as much, and worked as hard, in football as Fred Blackie.
He has coached youth football for 28 years, for both boys and girls, in local clubs and schools. He has also coached the Borders boys and girls development squads, given up his holidays to coach Scottish FA summer programmes and Borders Sports Academy squads and coached Gala Hotspur Border Amateur team.
Perhaps his most significant contribution was the formation of Gala Fairydean Rovers youths, creating a pathway from youth football to senior football.
His efforts don’t stop at coaching; he is secretary and youths co-ordinator at the Scottish Borders Junior FA. It is this position that allows him to comment on the development of the SBJFA.
He said: “Junior football is very strong, especially at the younger ages of 8-12, but there are a few problems trying to sustain teams at youth level.”
It can only be assumed he is referring to the usual problems – the cost of running teams and the offer of other activities to youngsters such as rugby. But Fred does see improvements.
“The trend is now changing in the Borders. With three Borders teams in the new Lowland League set up offering the players the opportunity to progress from kids football right through to the senior game we are retaining more young players. Hopefully one day we will have a Borders team playing in the Scottish leagues.”
There may also be changes in the pipeline which can help continue this progression. Blackie explained: “From next season we are proposing regionalising teams at the youth level. Players at junior would play with their local towns and villages, but once they move to youth level they would be directed to regional teams. This would guarantee six or seven sustainable teams at all age levels.”
Youth football does not happen without hard working volunteers. Fred was keen to point out that that there are others aside from himself: “There is obviously a lot of work behind the scenes. Our executive committee work really hard to ensure the Association runs smoothly. The Chairperson Chris Mowat, Treasurer Brian Smith and probably hardest working of all, Registrations Secretary Georgina Boggs, all deserve huge credit for the work they do.”
As well as committed individuals, Borders football has something else to be proud of. The Cameron Gunn festival is the showpiece event at the end of each season. Blackie proudly described it: “The Cameron Gunn festival is the culmination of our season and is a massive event. On the grass pitches at Netherdale (Galashiels) all of the junior teams from age six to 11 come together for a massive football festival. Over the fence on the 3G Arena all of the Youth Cup Finals take place starting with the 13's in the morning to the 17's at 3pm. It is a wonderful spectacle and is the largest single day football event in the country.
As long as there are people like Fred Blackie around, Borders football should remain in good shape.