Professional footballer Garath McCleary has backed a new campaign by the Oxford Mail calling on the council to ensure parks are maintained to get youths off the streets and into sport.

Wycombe Wanderers player McCleary, who was brought up in Blackbird Leys, has said he doesn’t want the area to be “forgotten” after, whilst visiting his mum, he noticed the local park he grew up playing in had been left uncut with grass up to his shins.

Local football clubs who play on the council-owned Blackbird Leys Park, off Cuddesdon Way, have had to cancel training sessions in recent months, due to the long grass.

READ MORE: League One footballer hits out at Oxford City Council for uncut grass

The League One player, who has played in the Premier League with Reading, admitted that his career would not have been the same if it weren’t for his time playing in the park with his friends.

During his youth, McCleary played for a number of local teams including Quarry Rovers, Littlemore and Morris Motors.

He spent three months at Oxford United but never signed a contract before his career began at Oxford City in 2004.

Oxford Mail: Garath McCleary in action for Oxford City in 2005

The 36-year-old said: “I used to go there to play football and if resources like that weren’t available I wouldn’t be in the position I am in now.

“It 100 per cent [helped my career]. I used to have friends that lived close by and we would go to that local park to play.

“We didn’t have the facility like an Astroturf, so those parks for us were crucial.

“For me personally I don’t think I would be in the position I am in if those parks weren’t available.”

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Since taking to social media to question Oxford City Council, he has asked them to “stick to their word”.

He said: “If it is just strictly road verges, can it be made sure that outside people’s houses and the park for kids should be maintained?

“They should be maintained as much as they have been saying, which is supposedly six times a year.

“The way it looks in Blackbird Leys at the moment, it definitely hasn’t been anywhere near that.

“If it is roadside grasses, stick to that but where they have slightly changed the wording I don’t really understand, there needs to be a lot more clarity on it."

Oxford Mail: Uncut areas in Blackbird Leys

Oxford City Council has reduced the number of times their contractors cut grass verges as part of a wider campaign to encourage biodiversity.

The footballer added that if the parks aren’t maintained for children and teenagers to use them then it can cause problems with anti-social behaviour.

He continued: “I have heard people say, if you want to find a way to play football you can.

“There is a new astroturf there but obviously you shouldn’t have to pay money to play football.

“If there is a grass field that is available you should be able to play there but I just feel it’s a bit of cop-out to say it is for biodiversity for grass verges but then parks and grass patches outside of people’s houses are fully grown.

“As a kid, if you are not doing something that s occupying your mind, such as being outside and playing football with your friends then there can be mischief.”

Oxford City Council was contacted for comment in relation to the claims made to this newspaper.

They have maintained that the grass in Blackbird Leys where the football club train was cut once a month in May and June. 

A council spokesperson said: "The grass in Blackbird Leys Park is cut once a month between April and October and we can confirm this was done in May and June.

"The football season ended in May and the football pitches stop getting mowed and marked out, as happens every year, as part of renovation work.

"The pitches will again be mowed and marked out for the start of the new football season."