We’re sitting on a beach in the middle of Hamilton.
There are buckets and spades, swings and a couple of kayaks on the sand around us. Even the sun is doing its best to make an appearance.
The beach is part of a project run by Hamilton Accies football club to help families in the local community.
It provides play areas for families with autistic children, and hosts weekly meetings for recovering alcohol, gambling and drug addicts.
On the side of one of the stadium’s stands there is a massive banner for Cocaine Anonymous – a self help group for people with an addiction.
It is also involved in an initiative called “Trainer for Freedom”, which helps rehabilitate young people recently released from prison.
The driving force behind the scheme is the club’s Chief Executive, Colin McGowan.
“I’m an alcoholic and an addict myself. I’ve been some 31 years in recovery. People helped me to get sober and get clean, and part of the Twelve Step Recovery Programme is trying to carry that message, and I just love to do it. It is a passion with me.”
When he first became involved in the club 12 years ago Colin vowed to use his position to tackle what he considers one of the biggest problems facing not just the community surrounding the ground, but the whole country.
“Hamilton Accies is so much more than a football club. It helps the community and hosts its football matches here as well as all the other things, because a football match might just be an hour and a half every two weeks, and then the stadiums lie sometimes in bad disrepair.
“The success of the football club has undoubtedly given us the stage. If you’re chief executive of a football club you can sometimes get a voice. If you’re chief executive of a carpet shop you maybe wouldn’t, so really it’s been the success and the hard work of our youth academy. Our directors are absolutely exceptional.”
The ultimate aim is to take the message further.
Colin believes Hamilton Accies can be the model for other clubs to promote the Twelve Steps programme across the country.
“We could proudly lead the world in showing what community football clubs can do if we’re big enough to care. We’ve got fans who are suffering and hurting out here. We can help mend that hurt and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t. The SPFL and the amount of money that gets put into football, we can channel that into the community.”
Garry King is one of hundreds of addicts to have received help at the club.
“It got to the stage where I was contemplating suicide on a daily basis. My self esteem was very low and I thought there was no way out.
“It impacted on my family. I lost contact with my family and my kids, and eventually it impacted on my place of work. With addiction being a progressive illness I lost control.
“It was that feeling of dread within me. I knew it was either sink or swim. I just felt something within me urging me to change. I had to forget about my past dealings and get new friends and get new interests and ideas about life, and I’ve certainly got that here at Hamilton Accies.
When we visit, the club is gearing up to host Partick Thistle in the first match of the new season.
There’s a fresh lick of paint on the stands, and the finishing touches are being made on the new synthetic surface.
Garry hasn’t missed a home game since getting involved at Hamilton Accies.
“I’ve got to know so many friends that work at the stadium. It gives you a sense of belonging. I fought through the fears to hang on in there which is a hard thing to do and my pride got in the way quite a lot of times.”
“If you are in the water and you’re drowning there’s certainly not a lot of people you can save, so I had to get a grasp on the fact I had to make sure that I was fine before I put the hand of friendship and the hand of help out to others.
“I feel as if in my own recovery I’m doing well just now, then I can go and help others, and the feeling that gives you that you’re helping people coming out of a hopeless way of thinking and living is a marvellous thing. If I can do it anybody can do it.”