Barcelona’s famed La Masia academy is the shining light of football schools, having produced players such as Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta, Xavi, Sergio Busquets, Bayern’s Thiago, Arsenal's Mikel Arteta and Thiago Motta of Paris Saint Germain, among many others. All of these players share not only a way of seeing and playing the game, but also a professionalism that makes them stand out in a world where footballers seem to be put on a higher pedestral every day.
The Drumsagard Football Academy, founded in 2009, holds similar beliefs to its hugely famous relative. Having started with only a dozen kids, it has seen a meteoric rise in player numbers, with more than 250 on its books now.
John Love, chairman and founding member of the academy, outlined its vision: "The philosophy basically is to get kids to play football, get them away from the PlayStations, the TVs, to get them out. We try to teach them to play proper football: The ball on the ground, passing and moving."
Drumsagard under-16s captain Joe Dickson agreed, explaining how his team "work from the back, keep the ball on the deck and, as the opportunity opens up, make sure to get a shot away quite quickly".
In his short stint at Barcelona, Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic was surprised at the modesty and professionalism of his new teammates, values that are fostered at La Masia. Equally, education at Drumsagard is also not just limited to football. Love commented: "We've had boys who've had problems at school and everything else. But every kid is told at a young age that they still represent Drumsagard if they're at school or outside, so the behaviour and the discipline have got to be good, or they wouldn't be a part of the club. And we've got feedback from the schools and from the police as well, saying that the behaviour of some of the kids that were unruly before is quite a turnaround."
Young central midfielder Joe Dickson seems to have taken the academy’s philosophy on board and is keen to act as a role model for the other players. Talking about his role as a captain, he underlined the "good team spirit", while revealing that he offers his teammates "a bit of advice" on and off the pitch.
Last year’s campaign proved very successful for the academy. Their 2003s and 2000s won international tournaments in Holland, with the latter team also winning their league and league cup. Additionally, their 2001s won the Glasgow Cup, while the 2002s also won their league. Drumsagard will be particularly proud of its newest team, the 2007s, who only suffered one defeat in the whole year.
Despite all of these successes, Love said the priority was education rather than silverware: "We insisted on the kids playing football, but playing it in a correct way. Trophies are just a bonus. I've got several trophies in the house, as has every coach that runs an age group, they've all won trophies at tournaments, or in preseason, throughout the years. But trophies are only a bonus. If you get three players that make professional football, your job as a club is done. As I said, it's about them playing a certain style of football, and trophies are only a bonus, as long as the kids are playing with a smile on their faces and are enjoying it."
Still, not putting pressure on the players to win trophies does not inhibit their willingness to do so; rather, it helps them find intrinsic motivation to do well. Dickson showed this when talking about his aims for the new season:
"Well, we’ve moved into a new league, so we want to win that league and win as many cups as we can, especially the Scottish and Regional."
Keen to continue the academy’s rapid progress, the chairman then detailed his plans for the next years: "Every year we'll start a new academy team, so they'll be coming through as future players for the under-21s, so everything will be done in-house and we'll keep going to tournaments abroad and in Britain and see how we go from there. Hopefully, in the future we'll have a few players playing professional football saying they came through the Drumsagard Football Academy."
If some of their players do make it as professionals, there is no doubt that they will play their football in the right mindset and the right way.