A former professional football player from Glasgow is helping disadvantaged children build a future in football with kit donations and job opportunities. 

Ryan Docherty harboured dreams of making it at the highest level after playing in the same Celtic youth team as Aiden McGeady and Charlie Mulgrew, under the tutelage of the legendary Tommy Burns.
But, after spells at Dundee United and Queen’s Park, he gave up on his footballing dreams to dedicate his life to improving the lives of young Scots through football by founding On The Ball Academy.
While coaching during the cost-of-living crisis, Mr Docherty witnessed the challenges facing young people in Glasgow, including poverty, lack of employment, and access to warm clothing.

The academy has now launched an employability programme to provide jobs for more than school leavers across the northwest of Glasgow, and a clothes collection initiative which has so far donated more than 40 bags of cold weather kit and boots to benefit local children in need.

The Herald: Ryan Docherty is providing cold weather kit to local children in needRyan Docherty is providing cold weather kit to local children in need (Image: Colin Mearns)

The former Corpus Christi primary school pupil said: "Our mission is to support the community and to transform lives through football.
“Through our dialogue with parents and teachers,  it’s become clear that things are more difficult than they used to be - people are struggling, and young people can’t find jobs. Meanwhile, kids grow so quickly, so it becomes difficult to keep them in clothes that fit, especially during winter.
“When I was at school, I didn’t have a pathway into coaching;  I want to change that for others. Many sacrifice their education in pursuit of a professional career and often succumb to issues relating to mental health or addiction when they don’t make the cut.  We’re giving a pathway for young people to stay in the game and make positive contributions to society.
“A lot of circumstances prevent kids from making that next step. We aim to develop fantastic footballers, but most importantly, we give young people the confidence and self-belief I lacked when I was in the system.” 

The Herald: Ryan with Ben McConalogue, who recently completed a training programme at the academyRyan with Ben McConalogue, who recently completed a training programme at the academy (Image: Colin Mearns)

Ben McConalogue, a fifth-year pupil at Knightswood Academy, recently completed a training programme designed by the academy and is now coaching with the team, being supported with coaching qualifications along the way.

The company has also pledged to deliver 1,000 free hours of football training in the next year.
Ryan Docherty, who has earned a UEFA A License and UEFA A Elite youth licence, has embarked on a worldwide exploration of footballing cultures to enhance his knowledge.
He said: “Croatia had the biggest impact on me. They’ve had real success — they’re recent World Cup finalists – but that has come despite serious poverty, because they focus on building enthusiasm and humility.

"They don’t have the best infrastructure but a desire to play and a love for football – that costs nothing. That perspective is central to our approach.  Meanwhile,  Futsal, which I introduced after a visit to Madrid, has really helped enhance the abilities of the young people at the academy.”

The Herald: Ryan and BenRyan and Ben (Image: Colin Mearns)
The academy serves as a feeder club to some of Scotland’s biggest professional outfits, with 25 of its members going into the professional environment at clubs including Rangers and Celtic. Chelsea and Scotland’s Erin Cuthbert is a graduate.
Mr Docherty, who is also first team coach at Pollok,  recently unveiled plans to widen its impact through a modern football facility right at the heart of the community it serves, at the old Danes Drive Bowls Park in Scotstoun.
The existing plan includes Glasgow's first nine-a-side pitch, designed to empower the local community with access to football even during the Scottish winter.

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The project, which includes a state-of-the-art all weather 9 aside pitch which is the first of its kind in Glasgow, has been backed by the Scottish Football Association is close to becoming a reality.
It will also feature an upgraded green space which will represent a community hub and Ryan and the team are currently working on fundraising close to £650,000 needed to see this community dream fulfilled.
Ryan said: “I see our continuous growth as an opportunity to give back more to the communities we serve. We’re at our limit as things stand, the Academy will help us make a bigger impact.  I want to be at the cutting edge of coaching for young people, because football can change lives."
To find out more, visit www.ontheballacademy.co.uk.