Apr 1 2010 By Tristan Stewart-Robertson
A 17-YEAR-OLD former gang member from Glasgow has made it to Scotland's youth football training squad.
In only 10 months since Darren Blair gave up hanging around the streets in favour of football, he has displayed so much talent he has been selected to train with the Scotland under-17 squad.
And he says he has found new focus to his life as captain and centre-back for Phoenix United on the Easterhouse estate in Glasgow's east end.
Now he is training five times a week and is aiming for sporting glory.
Darren said: "Easterhouse is a dangerous place for young people because there's nothing to do and you can walk right into trouble.
"The football is making the area safer. Older guys are coming to train with us, even though they can't play in games. It's keeping them off the drink and away from gangs.
"When we got our first strips, it felt like we were a proper team. If you're on a football team, you're not getting into any bother. We're using up all that energy."
Darren said his pals now drink less because they won't be allowed to play if they're drunk and everyone wants the team to do well.
The 'Gers fan said: "I would be out on the street every night before, just walking about.
"Getting on the Scotland under-17s squad feels great. It was just eight months after I started. I couldn't stop telling people.
"Right now, I'm doing football and looking for a job until I can get into the fire service, hopefully next year. Football's got me fitter to be a fireman and it's keeping my options open."
Up to 20 youths play for the football team in Easterhouse, as well as a girls' squad and a new under-13s team.