New facilities have “changed the outlook” for recently merged South Lanarkshire club EKYMC.
Graeme Robertson, a coach at the new side, feels the upgrade will help attract more players to the club and help them in their search for Scottish Cup silverware.
“We are certainly improving as a club and hopefully with the facilities we are putting in it will encourage more players to come," he said.
“Our new facilities have changed our outlook as a club for local players. We used to struggle for numbers but now we have players contacting us and looking for chances to play.”
In 2013, two of East Kilbride’s oldest and most-established football clubs announced an unanticipated plan to merge. The proposal was created to give local players a clear pathway from youth level to well beyond adolescence.
East Kilbride Youth Club (EKYC) and East Kilbride Youth Men’s Club (EKYM) would merge but both clubs would retain their historic and precious identities on the pitch. They would work together off the field and be collectively known as East Kilbride Youth and Men’s Club (EKYMC).
Both clubs were in dire need of a permanent home; an area where they could establish themselves within the local community and give their academy the facilities to develop and compete.
Months went on with the club passing on various potential sites for their new academy. The original site at the Murray Sports Centre was rejected after the club found issues with the pitch and lack of space to build in the surrounding areas.
Historically, EKYM have played all their league games at Kirktonholme but the area was not under their ownership. Therefore, both clubs agreed to make Kirktonholme their base of all operations for the overall club. They used the government’s asset transfer scheme which gave the club a 25-year lease on the area.
Since then, both clubs have funded a project to renovate Kirktonholme sports pitches into a joint-team training facility and arena. The newly updated area now features four changing rooms, referee’s room, kit room, sports bar, lounges and two outdoor grass pitches.
The club were recently funded £44,000 to renew both football pitches at Kirktonholme - a positive and professional move for both amateur sides.
Graeme has also been a key member in the merger and developments at Kirktonholme.
“We found that we were struggling like a lot of other amateur sides,” he said. “It seemed that both us and YC had teams that got to under-19s and it didn’t go anywhere after that. It just disbanded.”
“The plan was to use both clubs to start a football academy so we could have a steady stream of players. We could then develop players from the age of four to nineteen and beyond.”
Very few amateur clubs experience this level of professionalism and there has been local speculation over the future of both clubs and what level they plan to operate in.
“There has been talk about progressing to the West of Scotland League further down the line, but it has not been decided.
“My personal thoughts is that I don’t want to go towards professional football,” Graeme added. “We have been an amateur club since 1921 and I think that should be there to stay.”
“There’s never even been an East Kilbride side who has won the Scottish Cup. That’s the holy grail for all East Kilbride sides to win it for town. We have got to the semi-finals and were in the quarters last year."