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Line of Duty's Martin Compston: 'I've been dreaming of going to the Euros since I was 14'

Martin Compston also reveals why he chose acting over football as a teenager – despite Ken Loach advising him to stick to the beautiful game

Gordon Smart and Martin Compston

Gordon Smart and Martin Compston. Image: BBC Pictures

Martin Compston has revealed why travelling to Germany to follow Scotland at Euro 24 means so much to him after a 25-year wait. And in a new interview with the Big Issue, the Line of Duty actor, who is hosting Late Night at the Euros with Compston and Smart on BBC Scotland and iPlayer throughout Euro 2024, also explained why he feels he was wise to choose football over acting.

“I’m out covering the Euros on a BBC Scotland show with my pal Gordon Smart and we’ve got tickets for all the games. If I told myself as a kid about this he’d be amazed,” he said, in an upcoming Letter to My Younger Self interview for The Big Issue.

“The last time Scotland qualified for an international tournament was France 98. So I’ve been dreaming of going to one of these since I was 14.

“I kind of assumed the next one would come soon and me and my pals would be going round the world supporting Scotland for years to come. Well, I’m 40 now and this is the first one that’s come around. So I’ve been waiting for this my entire adult life.”

When he was just 17, Compston signed as a professional footballer for his local club, Greenock Morton, and made two first team appearances in their 2001-02 season.

In a wide-ranging interview, Compston revealed why he walked away from a football career – even when Ken Loach told him he should stick with his life-long ambition of playing professionally.

“I would tell my younger self he made the right decision to leave football,” Compston said. “Though Ken Loach actually advised me not to act because of how insecure it was. He said, ‘Football is your passion, it’s what you want to do.’ But he was also encouraging me as an actor, telling me I had some talent.”

In the end, Compston, who continues to play and appeared for the Rest of the World team against England in the recent Soccer Aid For Unicef charity match at Stamford Bridge, credits his own realistic assessment of his football talents with helping him come to the difficult decision.

“Football in the lower divisions is probably a more unstable career than acting,” Compston said.

“I think you’ve got to know your limitations, because knowing your limitations can actually set you free. You can have a proper goal.

“I thought, look, I’m a pretty decent footballer, but I’m never going to get to the level of playing for Celtic or Scotland. I like to think I’ve got my wits about me and some ability as an actor. And I had a few people telling me I had some acting talent.” With lead roles in The Wee Man, Red Road, Line of Duty, Vigil and Mayflies under his belt, football’s loss has clearly been acting’s gain…

Martin Compston was speaking to the Big Issue’s Jane Graham for his Letter to My Younger Self, in which he also discussed nearly turning down Line of Duty, the film that made him realise he could be an actor, and his favourite Scottish word. Read the full interview in the magazine soon.

Late Night at the Euros with Compston and Smart is on BBC Scotland and iPlayer.

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