GROWING up on the Isle of Arran, throughout my entire childhood I was a bit of a sports fanatic but my ability never really matched my enthusiasm.

One talent I did discover was improvisation. So while I wasn’t a great footballer, I could kick with my left foot as well as my right. Not many others could do that, so that I almost always got a spot in the team at left-back.

I played a lot of football and my pals and I were always kicking a ball about. At weekends we would play North v South and I soon had my first experience of women’s football. A girl called Elaine Faulkner joined our school and she was a great winger.

My problem was that I had to mark her and that wasn’t fun. In my late-teens I played for a team called Southend in our summer league, and we won the Isle of Arran league and the Cup. I wasn’t one of the better players, but it was good to celebrate success.

As a kid I watched Greenock Morton often with my uncle, but my club team was Leeds United. We lived on the south-west of Arran and got Ulster TV. So, rather than watching Saturday Sportscene, we saw Match of the Day and I became a big supporter of Billy Bremner’s boys, even supporting Leeds against Celtic in the semi-finals of the 1970 European Cup.

I played a bit of rugby too - and attended the founding AGM of Arran Rugby Club. We had so few players on the island that the boys would play against the men. Despite my small frame, I was a prop and was up against lorry drivers and farmers who were all huge so it’s safe to say that my rugby career didn’t last long.

In fact though, my main sport at that time was badminton – I played most days, won a few local trophies, and one of my big regrets when I went to the University of Stirling was not continuing to play. I loved the game and the social side too, and these days it’s still one of my favourite sports to watch.

When I was young, I only had a few chances to watch football live because logistically, it just wasn’t practical but when I was at uni, I went to a lot of Scotland matches. From the Home Internationals to the World Cup qualifiers, the 70’s and 80’s were fantastic years to be a Scotland fan.

When I was First Minister, I had the privilege of going as a VIP to a lot of big football matches, like the Champions League final in Glasgow.

But, I’d always gone to football as a private citizen anyway - like the Scotland v Brazil opening game of the 1998 World Cup Finals. There was always something special about going along as a fan rather than on official business; the atmosphere is so much better when you’re in amongst things.

As First Minister, I had many other incredible sporting experiences.

Two Ryder Cups ‘inside the ropes’ watching history made alongside the players and their families; spending time with heroes like Jack Nicklaus and Mary Peters; the Athens Olympics in 2004 where I watched Chris Hoy win his first Olympic Gold and Shirley Robinson win her second; and of course, the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester and the 2006 Games in Melbourne.

I enjoyed the 2002 Games but when I was there, talking to the athletes, I came to the conclusion that we had to improve our facilities and the backing that we gave to the athletes. So we set up the Scottish Commonwealth Games Endowment Fund that, to this day, funds the Team Scotland’s kit for the Commonwealth Games.

It was so good to be able to do something that made a real, practical difference.

In Manchester at those Commonwealth Games in 2002, I also realised that we could do something even better in Glasgow and so it was during those Commonwealth Games that the seeds for Glasgow 2014 were sown. That’s where it all started and, of course, the rest is history.

So to be sitting, 12 years later, at Celtic Park watching the Opening Ceremony of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, was just incredible.

It was so emotional and a very special moment for me.

By the time Glasgow 2014 came round, I was out of office and so I was in the fabulous position of being able to watch the sport as a fan.

I was there every single day and I was able to enjoy both the 11 days of the Games but also the fact that the event was helping transform Scottish sport. I look at the facilities we have now as a result of those Games – the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome and the various team sport venues – and I am so proud that the vision became a reality.

Last year I was invited to become Honorary President of Scottish Athletics and accepting the position was a complete no-brainer, I barely had to think about it.

I’ve been a regular attender of athletics over the years and when my kids were younger, I’d take them along to watch athletics so to be involved in the sport at this time, with such a range of talent on the team, is unbelievable.

I’ll be going out to Gold Coast for the 2018 Commonwealth Games and I really think that the team could do something special.

Bring it on.