Former professional footballers Gary Locke, Mickey Weir and Keith Wright were all in attendance on Monday night at Poltonhall Sports Complex in Bonnyrigg to mark the continued contribution of Borders Railway to the Midlothian Football Forum; a joint initiative between the SFA and Midlothian Council.

The now constituted forum represents ten youth football clubs across the region. Borders Railway, whose partnership with the Scottish FA began in July of last year, has given the forum a cash boost of £5,000. This additional funding will help to enhance the development of young players in the county, through new coaches and training equipment, as well as encourage more local youngsters to get involved with the sport.

David Sheldon, Scottish FA Club Development Manager for the South East Region, said of the collaboration, "We are delighted to be working in partnership with Borders Railway once again. Many of our young footballers can’t wait to be able to use the railway, so this is a great opportunity for them to learn more about the associated benefits, while also benefiting from improved football clubs at the same time.”

Carol Deveney, Network Rail’s Senior Programme Development Manager for Borders Railway spoke of the community benefits of the new railway project, “As construction activity for Borders Railway continues to make progress, this new partnership underlines the project’s continued investment in the community. Young people in Midlothian and the Scottish Borders have the most to gain from this new railway and this partnership will help to communicate benefits that the new railway will bring once it becomes operational next year. It will also help keep young people across the region active and away from construction sites during out-of-school times.”

These views were echoed by Mark Henderson, Network Rail’s Community Safety Manager, “It’s important that we highlight the risks of playing or trespassing on a railway, but just as important is giving the young people an engaging alternative that holds their attention. This initiative echoes similar successful partnerships that we have already established across Scotland. We hope that our continued support goes some way towards helping Midlothian’s football stars of the future.”

Also in attendance were coaches and players representing the ten Midlothian clubs that are currently involved with the forum. Two players from each club were invited to take part in a mini-game of football, making use of Poltonhall’s excellent playing surface on what was a perfect night for football. Whitehill Welfare Under 15 coach Daniel Lennie spoke of the benefit of the forum for the clubs involved. “At the end of the day, the kids just want to play football. There shouldn’t be any reason for them not to do that but unfortunately it’s often the case that for economic reasons they’re unable to train or travel to games week in week out.”

Fellow coach John Callachan added, “Every pound that comes in as a result of the forum and the partnership with Borders Railway is a pound that doesn’t have to come from the parents. We’re all grateful for that.”

Bonnyrigg Rose 2003’s coach Jamie Ferrier discussed the long-term benefits of the Midlothian Football Forum, stating that, “In this economic climate it sometimes tough to gain sponsorship and funding for everything we need at the club but the support of Borders Railway has been great. We’ve got kids as young as four years old involved with the club; the equipment that’s being bought with the help of this funding will be vital for their development.”

As the Midlothian Football Forum goes from strength to strength, so too does the link between Borders Railway and the local footballing community. With the year-long partnership having been a success so far and with the Borders Railway project set for completion next year, things are looking positive for grassroots football in Midlothian.