As somebody who played his first football on a makeshift red ash pitch on a ‘rough estate’ in Glasgow, Robert Snodgrass is acutely aware of inspirational difference sport can make to people’s lives.
West Ham United’s Scotland international midfielder grew up in Gallowgate, not far from Celtic’s iconic Parkhead stadium, where he and his four brothers and sisters made the most of every free hour they had.
On one occasion, a makeshift goal the Snodgrass children and their friends had built from scaffolding and netting was burnt down before they had the chance to use it.
So, with first-hand experience of the hardships faced by youngsters growing up in deprived, inner-city areas, it is no surprise the No11 is championing the Hammers’ recently-launched Players’ Project – an ambitious community scheme aimed at creating opportunities, delivering a sporting legacy and changing lives across east London and beyond.
All you can do is treat everybody with respect - it doesn't matter what they're going through
“Growing up on a rough estate in Glasgow, that was the way we used to do it, but seeing the kids today they have much better surfaces to play on!” smiled Snodgrass, who joins Declan Rice and women’s team stars Anna Moorhouse and Brianna Visalli in promoting the interests of supporters and local people with accessibility requirements.
“We used to play on red ash gravel, as I suppose it was the cheapest way to do it, but your Mum wasn’t happy because we were always coming back with third-degree burns all over our legs because of slide tackles,” he says. “It is what it is, and your childhood is your childhood, so it makes you the person you are and appreciate everything a lot more.
“Seeing some of these kids now, kids are kids and if they’re smiling, they’re happy, so the most important thing is to get smiles on their faces and out there enjoying themselves.
“I hear so many things about kids with tablets and they’ll do that if you’re lazy, but if you spend time and go out there and have fun, kids will enjoy themselves. I was no different, but the difference was no-one had mobile phones and things.
“The way it was, your Mum opened the door and away you went and you didn’t come back until you wanted some food or to have your bath for the morning! You could not wait to get back out of that door and start playing with your friends, and that’s just the way it was. It was some of the best times of my life.
“My Mum and Dad did the best they could for us. My Dad was an electrician and my Mum was a full-time housewife with five kids, so she had her hands full! All of us have had kids as well, so it’s like things have never changed with all the grandkids around!”
For Snodgrass, the opportunity to offer support and guidance to young people is also an incentive to throw himself wholeheartedly into The Players’ Project – following the example of the parents who set him on the path from the Gallowgate estate to Premier League and international football.
“My Mum has had heart-attacks, a stroke… she is a great woman,” he observed. “Even now I have to say to my kids to take it easy as, whenever they are out there playing football or enjoying themselves, she is always out there determined to be part of the fun as well. That’s just the type of person she is.
“I love her with every part of my body. When she was younger, she was always trying her best to raise us in the right way.
“People speak about money or different things, as long as you’re brought up right, I feel that’s the most important thing. I just try to be the best father, the best brother, the best son and the best friend I can be. All you can do is treat everybody with respect - it doesn't matter what they're going through."