If Glasgow succeeds in its reported intention to replace red blaes pitches with grass and synthetic grass surfaces, the experiences of a generation of young games players will join publicly-managed schools in becoming part of the city's educational history.

The uncompromisingly hard and hard-wearing surface may have had its critics, especially among visiting teachers and football teams, but it constituted, almost literally, the seed bed for hundreds of professional football players, to say nothing of the thousands of other school-age footballers, hockey players and athletes.

There was certainly one member of Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Schools who regarded the introduction of the blaes pitch as a major contribution to the improvement of physical education facilities in Scotland at the beginning of the latter half of this century.

From the mid-fifties onwards, almost every primary school in Glasgow had its own small pitch or kickabout area, and every secondary school, where there was the space, had at least one full-size football field and hockey pitch. Some schools, especially in the new housing schemes had as many as six or more pitches that were also used extensively by other community groups. All things considered, they were a very astute investment by the old Glasgow corporation, however many knees were skint as a result.

Just as most major initiatives have their by-products, like the space race bequeathing us baking foil, the blaes pitch popularised the ubiquitous and much-maligned mouldmaster football.

Like the pitches, this rubber version of the football 'bladder', combined minimum maintenance with maximum longevity. In the hands of an unscrupulous football coach it could be worth goal of a start when a Glasgow school was drawn against a team from the counties, where grass pitches were the norm. A few extra pumps with the inflator just before the start of the game resulted in a match ball that pinged off boot and pitch with the alacrity and venom of a demented pin-ball, causing untold control problems for the visitors.

Whatever its drawbacks, the mouldmaster was altogether more player-friendly than the ball from hell with which the authorities tried to replace it in the late seventies. Though it looked okay, this white-painted ball had the consistency of brick, and for the many young players who couldn't afford expensive football boots, kicking it was painful and heading it out of the question.

This monstrosity had a life-span even longer than the 'mouldy', mainly because so many of them remained in their wrappers. The ultimate judgment was delivered whenever a school was burgled and the felons didn't bother to steal them.

It was a wise teacher who advised his school team to wear boots with a moulded sole when playing on the blaes, thereby ensuring a degree of comfort which eluded anyone wearing footwear with half-inch metal studs. Running about the blaes for an hour or more with these on could leave the wearer feeling as if he had taken part in a Polynesian fire-walking ritual.

On the multi-pitch sites which could take up a couple of acres, a teacher totally devoid of scruples would sometimes put his own substitutes behind the the home goal to retrieve missed shots quickly, and withdraw them after half-time, resulting in the opposition's defenders running themselves ragged chasing the ball across the steppe-like wastes to recover the ball. The same ploy could be used to save time if the home team was losing, or to waste time if they were ahead.

In winter the combination of rain and regular usage maintained the red ash at a consistency which allowed a bit of give. The worst time was after the long summer holidays, especially if the weather had been dry, or during May and June when the pitches were used for athletics. It took only a moderate Force 3 or 4 wind to generate a mild ash-storm. Anything above Force 6 and a class of children could resemble a crowd scene out of Lawrence of Arabia. Once I had to pacify a group of kids who were being pursued across the pitches by a mini-whirlwind of red ash and crisp papers.

I just hope that if, and when, upgrading takes place, the council also employs a team of hazard-spotters to detect and remove alien objects. Stolen cars should not be a problem, but I can't say the same for broken glass and dog turds. And if the natural grass receives as little attention as the blaes did in my last years as a teacher then even the cars will be difficult to spot.

So, as the Dear Green Place becomes even greener, lets hear it for the mid-century municipal visionaries who gave us blaes as well as high flats; and used neither.