£7.1m boost for Scotland’s live venues and museums

The money is part of a £185m package announced for businesses earlier this month.

Covid-19: The money is part of a £185m package announced for businesses earlier this month. Deepblue4you via Getty Images
Covid-19: The money is part of a £185m package announced for businesses earlier this month.

The Scottish Government is to release £7.1m of coronavirus support funds to help live music venues and independent museums.

The money is part of a £185m package announced for businesses earlier this month.

A total of £4m from the Grassroots Music Venue Stabilisation Fund will go live in January.

It aims to help live music venues that were financially sustainable before the pandemic stay in business and stabilise until April.

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The Scottish Government will also top up the Museums Recovery and Resilience Fund by £3.1m to meet demand.

The money will support Scottish independent museums.

Culture secretary Fiona Hyslop said the funds “will make a marked difference in ensuring our culture and heritage sectors survive the pandemic”.

Beverley Whitrick, strategic director at Music Venue Trust, said: “We have worked closely with the Scottish Government on the funding required to sustain grassroots music venues across Scotland.

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“We are delighted that further support is forthcoming to secure these vital cultural spaces through until the spring.”

Bridge Street Social in Aberdeen is among the businesses to benefit from the fund.

JP McGivney from the venue said: “The first round for funding for Grassroots Music Venues was essential for us, and it was targeted to last only a short time.

“As restrictions have not eased, it became clear we would need further support to prevent permanent closure, so news of a second phase of this fund is very welcome.”


Family pay tribute to crash victim with the ‘biggest of hearts’

Robert McGhee, 24, was pronounced dead at the scene after his car left the road and struck a tree.

Police Scotland
In a statement released through Police Scotland, his family said he will be 'in our hearts forever more'.

Tributes have been paid to a 24-year-old man who died in a crash, with his family describing him as having the “biggest of hearts”.

Robert McGhee was pronounced dead at the scene after his car, a black Audi S3, left the road and struck a tree in Aberdeenshire.

The incident took place on the Torphins to Kincardine O’Neil road at around 9pm on Monday, November 29.

In a statement released through Police Scotland, his family said he will be “in our hearts forever more”.

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“It’s with great sadness that at only 24, Robert (Bert) was taken from us,” the family said.

“A loving son, fiancé, grandson & nephew, his big blue eyes & long eyelashes melted everyone. 

“He was the most helpful, hardworking, caring, polite young man with the biggest of hearts you could ever meet. 

“The world has lost a treasure that can never be replaced. You will be in our hearts forever more.”

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Police are appealing for anyone who may have witnessed the collision or saw the vehicle before the incident to contact them.

North East-based Road Policing Sergeant Chris Smith, said: “Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Robert at this time.

“Enquiries are ongoing to establish the full circumstances of the collision and I would urge anyone who witnessed the collision or saw the vehicle prior to the incident that has not already spoken to the Police to come forward.

“In particular, we are keen to trace the driver of a green coloured 4×4 described as a jeep who is believed to have stopped at the scene and their information may be of assistance to our investigation.”

Details can be passed to Police Scotland on 101 quoting reference 3433 of November 29, 2021.


Senior police officer suspended following ‘criminal allegation’

The force's oversight body, the Scottish Police Authority (SPA), confirmed the suspension of an officer in a statement.

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A senior officer can be suspended if an allegation, if proven, would be sufficiently serious to amount to misconduct or if the nature of the allegation means suspension is in the public interest.

A senior officer in Police Scotland has been suspended following a “criminal allegation”.

The officer is understood to be Police Scotland Temporary Assistant Chief Constable Pat Campbell.

He is executive lead for organised crime, counter-terrorism and intelligence, which also covers border policing, cyber crime and digital forensic, having taken up the role a year ago.

Campbell is senior responsible officer for cyber capabilities, cyber strategy and technical surveillance.

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The force’s oversight body, the Scottish Police Authority (SPA), confirmed the suspension of an officer in a statement.

Prosecution service the Crown Office has instructed police watchdog the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (Pirc) to investigate the allegation.

A senior officer can be suspended if an allegation, if proven, would be sufficiently serious to amount to misconduct or if the nature of the allegation means suspension is in the public interest.

In its statement, the SPA said: “The Scottish Police Authority has suspended a senior officer from Police Scotland duties.

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“The decision was taken after a criminal allegation was brought to the authority’s attention.

“The Police Investigations and Review Commissioner is investigating this allegation under direction from the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service.

“The suspension is effective from Wednesday 1 December and will be reviewed regularly, or if there is a change in circumstances relevant to the suspension.”

Police Scotland Deputy Chief Constable Fiona Taylor said: “I can confirm that a senior officer from Police Scotland has been suspended by the Scottish Police Authority.

“This is in connection with a criminal investigation being carried out by the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner.

“The chief constable has reviewed Police Scotland’s command structure to ensure the organisation continues to meet operational demand.”


Government announces funding to support women involved in sex work

The government is consulting over whether its approach to tackling prostitution is sufficient to prevent violence against women and girls.

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Sex workers have accused the government of adopting an 'outdated ideology' and a 'harmful moralistic view' in its approach to prostitution.

More than £615,000 is being invested by the Scottish Government in a range of projects, including support for women involved in prostitution.

Most of the money will go to the Glasgow-based Women’s Support Project, a charity which aims to raise awareness of the harms of commercial sexual exploitation.

The organisation will receive £421,000 which it said would help ensure women are able to access specialist support to address their practical and emotional needs.

Women’s Support Project national coordinator Heather Williams said it welcomed the government’s recognition of the selling or exchanging sex or images as violence against women and girls.

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“This funding will help ensure women are able to access specialist support to address their practical and emotional needs, it will also contribute to work to raise awareness of the impact of commercial sexual exploitation and help improve practice within statutory services based on what women have told us they need,” she said.

“Prostitution is a form of violence against women.”

Community minister Ash Regan MSP

More than £83,000 will go to community justice organisation Sacro – including support for an Edinburgh-based project to improve the health, safety and wellbeing of women involved in prostitution.

Sue Waddington, gender based violence services manager for Sacro’s Another Way programme, said: “The funding has enabled workers from our Another Way project to continue delivering the service, but also to shape, grow and respond to meet the needs of this hard to reach group of women.”

And more than £110,000 will go to the UK charity South West Grid for Learning Trust to help fund the rollout of its Revenge Porn Helpline across Scotland and to further its work to get illegal intimate images removed from the internet.

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The Scottish Government’s definition of violence against women includes prostitution and is set out in our Equally Safe Strategy.

But sex workers have accused the government of adopting an “outdated ideology” and a “harmful moralistic view” in its approach to prostitution.

The government is consulting over whether its approach to tackling prostitution is sufficient to prevent violence against women and girls.

Kate, a sex worker from Glasgow, said the consultation is “pushing a different agenda, one more towards criminalisation”.

It follows two women who described themselves as “survivors of prostitution” addressing Holyrood’s Cross Party Group on Sexual Exploitation, calling for buying sex to be made an offence.

The government said the consultation it not committed to any specific course of action and instead aims to ask questions about challenging men’s demand for purchasing sex and how harms for women involved in prostitution can be reduced.

Last year, sex workers told STV News they had put themselves in risky situations after their incomes were hit by coronavirus.

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Currently, the laws around sex work in Scotland are nuanced. 

While exchanging money for sexual services is legal, activities around it, such as operating a brothel or soliciting for the purchase or sale of sex, are not.

A group of campaigners are calling on the government to criminalise those who pay for sex in order to reduce demand for prostitution.

Community minister Ash Regan MSP, who is leading the consultation, said: “Prostitution is a form of violence against women.

“The harsh reality of the risks commonly encountered are violence, sexual victimisation, poor mental health and sexual health, manipulation and sexual exploitation.

“The pandemic, stigma and the hidden nature of prostitution has created further barriers to getting help and I am therefore pleased to announce this additional funding for specialist services, designed specifically for women involved in prostitution and those who have experienced illegal images being uploaded to the internet.

“This money brings our total dedicated funding to support women involved in prostitution to £700,000 since June this year and is part of the Scottish Government’s overarching ambition to develop a model for Scotland which effectively tackles men’s demand for prostitution.”


Show where all Government spending goes, Scottish Labour demands

The Scottish Government has never undertaken a comprehensive spending review.

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Scotland’s finance secretary, Kate Forbes, is due to announce the proposed Budget on Thursday.

A full review of the Scottish Government’s spending should be carried out to identify unspent money, wasted spending and to increase transparency around the Budget, Scottish Labour has said.

The party’s finance spokesman, Daniel Johnson, has called for a comprehensive spending review as part of the Budget process, with “line by line” evidence of where public money is being spent.

Scotland’s finance secretary, Kate Forbes, is due to announce the proposed Budget on Thursday and Johnson said knowing where all the money goes would help to “make sure every penny is spent wisely”.

The Scottish Government has never undertaken a comprehensive spending review despite them being carried out by the Treasury on UK Government spending approximately every three years.

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Johnson argued that a spending review would allow the Government to understand where money was being spent successfully and where spending had failed to deliver its intended aims.

The Government should also be able to provide estimates of what it expected to spend in the following two years, something he suggested would give clarity and stability to public budgets such as those of councils and the police.

Johnson said: “After 14 years, the gap between the SNP’s rhetoric and reality on investing in Scotland’s future is eye-watering.

“To jumpstart a meaningful recovery from the pandemic and invest in an ambitious future, we’ve got to make sure every penny is spent wisely.

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“The SNP’s broken financial promises have smothered Scotland’s potential for too long. We need an ambitious Budget with clear priorities for Scotland’s recovery.

“We need a clear picture of what we are trying to achieve – and if it’s working.

“Transparency and efficiency must be at the heart of our economic recovery. The days of short-term thinking must end.

“That’s why, as we approach this Budget, Labour will be focused on schemes that can unlock Scotland’s potential and get (us) back on the road to recovery.”

Johnson also said the Scottish Government would have a “pretty substantial envelope” of additional funding, with at least £3.9bn extra expected to be available from Barnett consequentials as a result of UK Government spending decisions.

Suggesting that some of the additional money should be given to councils to tackle the problems of rubbish in the streets and potholes in the roads, Johnson added: “I think the way (the Scottish Government) has treated local government since the SNP came to office has left local government in an invidious position.

“Frankly, they’ve left our roads in a dreadful state and rubbish uncollected, and I think there needs to be some pretty urgent action to put those things right.”

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He added: “I think Kate Forbes has two options. She can look across her Budget lines from last year and increment them up a bit, giving in to her Cabinet colleagues.

“Or she can look at the Budget and the envelope of £3.9bn of cash that is there from the (UK) comprehensive spending review and say ‘what can we do, what interventions can we make to get the recovery back on track and build the resilience that we need?’.”


Does this street have the best Christmas display in Scotland?

Street transformed into winter wonderland after neighbour diagnosed with terminal cancer.

STV News

Lavender Drive in Newton Mearns must surely be Scotland’s most festive street.

After more than two months of planning, neighbours have switched on their street-long Christmas display.

The idea to transform Lavender Drive into a winter wonderland came during the depths of lockdown last year when one resident, father-of-two Fred Banning, was diagnosed with terminal bowel cancer.

By asking for donations from those who come to see the 16 spectacular homes, the neighbours raised more than £5500 for the Beatson Cancer Charity last Christmas and hope to collect even more this time around.

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“I was going to and from chemotherapy and the first time I turned the corner and saw the whole street lit-up was just fantastic,” Fred, 38, told STV News. 

“It was really quite moving, it is like nowhere else I’ve ever lived.”

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The street Christmas lights were switched on after two months of planning.
STV News
Lavender Drive has been transformed into a winter wonderland.
STV News
The decorations are lighting up the night in the Newton Mearns street.
STV News
Money is being raised for cancer research.
STV News
Neighbours came out to single Jingle Bells during the big switch-on.
STV News
The display aims to raise money after father-of-two Fred Banning was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Scotland’s woodlands saves NHS £26m each year, says study

Researchers said urban trees reduced the country's antidepressants bill by around £1m a year.

Scottish Forestry via Scottish Forestry
Researchers said increased physical exercise was likely to be a main driver.

The mental health and wellbeing boost people get from spending time in Scotland’s woodlands saves the health service and employers around £26m each year, according to new research.

The study, commissioned by Scottish Forestry, also estimated trees in cities and towns could reduce the country’s antidepressants bill by around £1m a year.

Government funded company Forest Research conducted the study, the first of its kind to demonstrate the “avoided costs” to the NHS through improved well-being by visiting woodlands and nature.

Researchers said increased physical exercise was likely to be a main driver.

Scottish Forestry via Scottish Forestry
Environment minister at the Scottish Government Màiri McAllan.
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Forest bathing, the practice of mindfulness in woodlands, often while walking, accompanied by activities such as meditative breathing exercises was also cited in the study.

Welcoming the study, environment minister Màiri McAllan said: “Scotland’s forests and woodlands offer so many environmental, social and economic benefits to society.

“During Covid-19 pandemic, access to woodlands has become even more important to individuals in supporting and maintaining their well-being.

“It is widely recognised that spending time in woodlands can have a positive effect on alleviating conditions such as depression and anxiety.

Scottish Forestry via Scottish Forestry
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“This study is important because we now have a clear monetary value on how much our woodland resource could be worth in tackling poor mental health.”

Research by the Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH) found more than half of those surveyed with existing mental health problems felt it had worsened during the pandemic, amid warnings of a crisis.

Almost eight in ten people think demand for mental health services will increase after the pandemic is over, according to another survey.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists in Scotland found that, since the coronavirus crisis began in March 2020, nearly a third of Scots (32%) have suffered anxiety.

Meanwhile, almost a quarter (24%) said they have suffered symptoms of depression and 23% have experienced loneliness.

More than 1600 children and young people have been waiting for longer than a year for mental health treatment as referrals doubled in a year.

More than 10,000 were referred to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) in the three months to June 2021 – the highest in the data available since March 2017.

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The Forest Research study, commissioned by Scottish Forestry, the Welsh Government and the Forestry Commission in England, aimed to put a value on the mental health benefits that woodlands bring to the population.

The study examined the avoided costs associated with reductions in GP visits, drug prescriptions, inpatient care, social services and in the number of days lost at work from mental health issues.

The value across all of the UK’s woodlands is estimated to be £185m (at 2020 prices). This is distributed as £141m for England, £26m for Scotland, £13m for Wales and £6m for Northern Ireland.


Projects tackling childhood obesity to share more than £750,000

Figures show 23% of Primary 1 children in Scotland are at risk of being overweight or obese.

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The schemes all work to encourage good nutrition among young families.

Projects working to tackle childhood obesity have been awarded more than £750,000 of cash from the Scottish Government.

Public health minister Maree Todd said the cash, which is being split between eight initiatives, would help ensure youngsters can have “the best start in life no matter where they live”.

The schemes, which all work to encourage good nutrition among young families, will receive a total of £759,000.

That will see the Thrive Under 5 project benefit from £269,344 to help with its work among families with pre-school children in some of Glasgow’s most deprived areas.

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It comes in the wake of figures showing 23% of Primary 1 children in Scotland were at risk of being overweight or obese – with 10% specifically at risk of obesity.

Campaigners at Obesity Action Scotland said: “There has been no positive progress in reducing obesity rates within the last decade, with 22.4% of Primary 1 pupils in Scotland at risk of overweight or obesity in 2001-02.”

Todd said: “Addressing obesity remains a public health priority and we want children and families to have access to appropriate support to give everyone the best start in life no matter where they live.

“We know that diet impacts on children’s health and development and will therefore continue to support local partners to develop these ambitious and effective plans to help prevent and reduce childhood obesity.

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“Our 2021-22 Programme for Government sets out our focus on improving the health of young people by taking forward the actions in our Diet and Healthy Weight Delivery Plan.

“These projects, alongside our Best Start Foods payment and Scottish Milk and Healthy Snack Scheme are central to our commitment to ensure everyone in Scotland has access to healthy, nutritious food.

“We have also introduced the Good Food Nation Bill to help ensure good quality, locally sourced and produced food is a practical everyday reality for everyone.”

Siobhan Boyle, health improvement lead at Glasgow City Health and Social Care Partnership, said they were “delighted” to receive two years of funding for the Thrive Under 5 project.

She said: “This programme will directly benefit families in the Thrive Under 5 neighbourhoods by combining a suite of healthy lifestyle supports in relation to financial inclusion, food insecurity, healthy eating and physical activity.

“A local Thrive Under 5 network in each area will drive the project forward in partnership with local people. We are looking forward to seeing the positive difference that this project will make.”


Environmental groups call on UK Government to end Cambo project

Siccar Point Energy says it is disappointed at Shell’s change of position but remains confident in the merits of the project.

Espen Mills via Greenpeace

Environmental groups have called on the UK Government to step in and end the proposed Cambo oil field off the coast of Shetland.

Shell, who have a minority stake in the controversial project, announced on Thursday evening it would not be investing in the field, which is waiting approval from the regulator.

Shell has a 30% stake in the controversial development, off the coast of Shetland, originally licensed in 2001.

Citing the potential for delay and a lack of strength in the economics, the multinational company said it had concluded against investment.

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Siccar Point Energy, Shell’s partners in the development, said it was disappointed at Shell’s change of position but that it remained confident in the merits of the project.

Jonathan Roger, the company’s CEO, said: “We are in consultation with the regulator and stakeholders on taking Cambo forward and the next steps required to do that.

“It is widely accepted that oil and gas is needed to support the UK during the transition to preserve jobs and provide enough power for our homes and businesses.

“Norway continues to invest in both new oil and gas and renewable developments to deliver a fair and managed transition, but the UK is at risk of damaging its economy and increasing imports with a higher carbon impact if new developments are not brought forward during this time.

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“The Cambo licence dates back 20 years and production has already been accounted for in net-zero plans drawn up by the Climate Change Committee, the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) and the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR).

“Domestic production is declining rapidly and is unable to meet current and future demands even with new developments such as Cambo.”

However, Caroline Rance from Friends of the Earth Scotland said Shell’s announcement “spells the end of the line” for the project.

She said: “[This] is great news for the climate and all those people around the world who are living on the frontline of climate impact already.

“It looks incredibly unlikely that Siccar Point Energy, the company who own the 70% stake, would be able to attract anybody else into this project now.

“Shell are one of the biggest, best resouced, most experienced oil companies in the world and if they are saying ‘this is uneconomic and this is too risky’ it really doesn’t look like they are going to get anybody else to come in and take that stake.”

In November, as COP26 ended in Glasgow, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon voiced her strongest opinion so far on the proposed development, saying: “I don’t think that Cambo should get the green light.”

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She had previously urged the UK Government to reassess the plans, amid growing concern over the impact of fossil fuels on climate change.

Speaking to STV News on Friday, she said: “We can’t shut oil and gas off overnight. Nobody’s suggesting that, and we mustn’t leave those who currently work in oil and gas on an economic scrapheap, but for the sake of the planet, Scotland, the world has to accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels.

“And the challenge for countries like Scotland is to do that by building up the alternatives, so that we meet our energy needs without being more reliant on imports, but to do that in a way that we’re creating alternative jobs for the skills and the jobs that are currently in oil and gas.”

The Cambo field will produce 170 million barrels of oil equivalent during its 25-year operational life and 53.5 billion cubic feet of gas, enough to power 1.5 million homes for a year, accoring to Siccar Point Energy.

UK energy minister Greg Hands said: “As a UK Government, we are very supportive of the sector, we did a deal with the oil and gas sector, the North Sea transition deal, last year, we stick by that deal, working with the sector to decarbonise the move to net-zero, while also recognising the importance, particularly of gas, as a fuel – 55% of the UK’s gas is drawn from the UK continental shelf.

“We need to recognise the importance of that energy source going forward.

“The project was licensed in 2001, 2004, there would still be further UK Government approvals to come in future. But really in terms of the future of the project, that would be a matter for the companies involved, or potential future companies, to have a look at it.”

Industry bosses say continuing to extract oil and gas from the North Sea is crucial for the country’s energy needs

Jenny Stanning, external relations director at Oil and Gas UK, said: “This is a commercial decision between partners but doesn’t change the facts that the UK will continue to need new oil and gas projects if we are to protect security of supply, avoid increasing reliance on imports and support jobs.

“However, we know that to deliver the transition to a lower carbon future, investor confidence remains essential.

“The government has made clear that gas and oil have a critical role to play in the nation’s future energy supply and we will continue to work with governments, industry and politicians of all parties to make this case.”

Motherwell’s Sean Goss feels he is well place to kick on his career

The midfielder says he has already developed his game at Fir Park.

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Goss believes he will continue to improve.

Motherwell midfielder Sean Goss feels he is in the best place to finally kick on his career.

The 26-year-old has played nine games since joining Motherwell in August and feels he is developing his game already.

Goss started his career with Manchester United before signing for QPR in January 2017 but only played seven times for the west London club.

Following loan spells with Rangers and St Johnstone, Goss spent two years with Shrewsbury and is keen to push his career on at Fir Park.

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“I came up after the season started and then missed a few weeks but since being back fit I am starting to feel better every week, enjoying my football, and hopefully I can keep improving on my performances,” the midfielder said ahead of Saturday’s cinch Premiership game against Hibernian.

“That was one of the main attractions coming up here, getting regular games and building on what I have had in the past. I feel like the manager and the staff have been really good with me to get the best out of me, and I still have a lot to show.”

Manager Graham Alexander has utilised the left-sided player on the flank of his three-man midfield.

“It’s a bit of a new role for me, I have normally played in the middle of a three, a bit deeper, but I am enjoying the challenge and the more games I play the more I will understand the role,” Goss said.

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Alexander has also given Goss and the rest of the Motherwell squad clear ideas on what is expected in terms of work rate.

“You have to have that other side of the game to you,” Goss said. “It’s something, when I was younger, maybe I didn’t have. It’s something I have been working on a lot and the manager is really good at drilling that side of the game into us and I think it has helped massively.

“I have been trying to work hard in the gym as well because I feel injuries have held me back. I am hoping to stay fit and kick on from there. I feel like I should have played a lot more for my age.

“The more games I play the more comfortable I am feeling. We have shown as a team as well what we can do and we just need to keep that consistency.”


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