Central Region (547)
Starting with the Lanarkshire FDA 19’s, Aston Villa had a disappointing weekend after being beaten at home 0-4 by Mill United whilst East End Thistle found themselves on the end of a 0-1 defeat to Dalziel BC. The Motherwell side have now moved into fifth on nine points and still have a game in hand. EK Hotspur had a good 3-0 victory over Baillieston BC and are equal on points with Dalziel BC and EKFC Blue, who have yet to find themselves a point, suffered a 0-4 defeat to Villa Park who managed to get their first win of the season. Moorlands BC remained on top with a resounding 1-7 win away to EKFC Red and the tie between EKYM and EK Thistle YC was postponed. Holytown Colts were beaten by 2-4 by Bellshill Athletic, Colts sit mid table on six points and Athletic have moved into third on ten points. Mill United Colts were beaten 0-2 by fourth placed Blantyre BC and second placed Wolves BC scored five against Hampden BC, the match finished 5-0.
Drumsagard FA had a good 3-2 home win against Dalziel BC and moved above them and into third place on twelve points, East End Thistle remain on six points after their 1-5 defeat to DC Bishopbriggs who are on fourth with eleven points. EK Thistle YC lost their match against Wishaw BC by 1-3. Larkhall Thistle AFC moved into second place on thirteen points with a 5-3 win over Claremont AFC and Mill United continued to lead the pack with a 4-1 home win against Mossend FC, United have 16 points whilst Mossend sit on four. Strathaven Dynamo found themselves on the wrong end of a 2-6 defeat at the hands of Blantyre Yellow, the teams have three and nine points respectively. Villa Park were well beaten 0-5 by Westwood Rovers and Wishaw WW were beaten 0-4 by EK Burgh United who remain the only side with a 100% record, with three wins from three.
Dalziel BC came out on top against Mill United in a 5-3 thriller and now sit in joint second place alongside Cambuslang and Muirton with seven points. EKFC Gold retained their 100% record with a 3-0 win against Blantyre BC and Mossend FC were well beaten 1-6 by Cambuslang. In another thriller, Muirton FC edged Larkhall Thistle by 5-4 and Wishaw WW lost out by a single goal too Jerviston, 0-1.
The LDFA 16’s section B saw a couple of high scoring wins at the weekend, the first of them being the EKFC Red 3-9 EKYC result that gave EKYC their first three points, Aston Villa lost out at home to EKFC Blue, the final score being 0-6. The tie between EKRR Red and Whitecraigs AFC was postponed. New Stevenston won 9-0 at home against Whitecraigs Viola with the sides being on six and zero points respectively. Newton had a great result which saw them end ’s 100% record when they won 3-1, Thistle remain on nine points and Newton now have six. Lastly, East End Thistle sit top of the league due to goal difference over Kelvindale Thistle with a 0-3 away win to Strathaven Dynamo who have six points.
Jerviston BC moved into joint third place with Drumsagard after beating them 4-5, the teams now have six points apiece. EK Burgh United lost out to Mill United when they lost 1-3, Mill United remain top with Mossend BC on nine points and Burgh sit mid table on four. Mill Rovers had a resounding 9-1 win over Clyde Valley, Rovers win was their first of the season and sees them move away from Valley at the bottom. Joint leaders Mossend BC beat bottom side Dalziel BC 6-0 and Wishaw WW won by five goals to two when Eddiewood BC visited.
We end the review in LDFA 15’s section B, Blantyre BC moved closer to fifth placed Holytown Colts by beating them 7-3 at home, the gap between both sides has now been reduced to two points. League leaders Drumsagard Blue increased their lead by five points when they beat second placed Blantyre Yellow 4-6. Claremont AFC moved into joint second with Blantyre Yellow when the managed to beat Aston Villa 5-1 and Coatshill BC managed to get their first points after beating Newmains BC EKYC were beaten 2-3 at home by Whitecraigs AFC who now move level on six points with the home side, whilst Stonehouse BC went down 3-6 to EKRR Youth who now sit on nine points, level with Holytown Colts in fourth. Westwood Rovers got their second win of the season when Milan BC visited, the match finished 9-2 and Rovers now find themselves in ninth place.
The managerial merry-go-round in the professional game each season suggests that improving a team in a short space of time is never easy. Implementing a new philosophy, however, takes even longer, and many a coach has been sacked prematurely due to suffering from an adaptation period. At youth level though, coaches are still allowed to work properly, which has paid dividends for Motherwell Girls FC 15s.
Adam Shaw has been at the club for three years, taking his 13s side up to 15s and 11-a-side matches. Reflecting on the development he has observed so far, the coach said: "In that period of time, the majority has been massive. When I first joined, no disrespect to the girls, they couldn't really pass a ball to be honest with you and they'll more than admit that themselves. But everything they've put in in the last three years, just the attitude, the commitment, has been ideal and you can see that in the performances now. They're starting to gel, they're starting to become a good football team, they're starting to become good friends on and off the park which makes life so much easier for you as a football team."
In a sense, 15s vice-captain Lauren Simpson embodies this development. A late bloomer, she only started playing football three years ago and, after a few positional changes, now fancies herself as a ball-playing centre back. Talking to Youth Football Scotland, Simpson echoed her coach’s statements about the team’s development when asked about how things have gone so far in the season: "Actually they've gone quite well. In our first season, halfway through the season, we moved up to the highest league and I think we got one point out of 18. This season, we've only lost two games with four games to go, so, a big improvement."
While saying that the girls "worked really hard during [their] breaks", she put a lot of that positive development down to the coaching team of Shaw and Maxine McCrindle: "For all of us, I think they've helped a lot, because when I started I had never really played football, and they improve very, very much. I could never really kick a ball, really. The two of them have improved together, they've learned to work together and have obviously helped us out lots."
It has been an eventful three years for Simpson, who admits starting so late was "hard, very hard" and came to training just to try it out: "I think I saw it on the internet or something and my mum said, ‘Do you want to go along?’ and I said, ‘Why not?’. I expected to last a week, and that's it, just go a week."
Commenting on her role in the team, she said: "I've been told that I can read the game very well, so if I sit back a bit, I can see where the play is going to go.You can see the whole game, so it's much better [playing at the back]."
Simpson has also been appointed vice-captain for her good communicational skills and key position on the park. She described herself as "loud and communicative", a leader on the pitch who "speaks out and organises a bit".
Listening to her coach talk about his influences, it is no surprise Simpson is quite a refined, modern centre back: "I'm a big fan of watching Arsenal and Barcelona, so just passing and possession football. I love how they get the ball out through the back. I've always said to the girls if we lose a goal from trying to play football, then it won't bother me, because at that age you can't discourage young players from trying to play football. Girls and boys of this age, they need to learn how to play football first and foremost before results."
And Simpson clearly enjoys that style of play: "It makes it a lot more enjoyable because you're not just playing for a win, you're playing to play football. Yes, I think that the way we've played football has made us closer as a team and I think that it has really worked."
In terms of administration and organising the club, Shaw is quick to point to the support he gets from his fellow coach and Motherwell FC: "I'm quite lucky because Maxine, the other coach, she does the majority of that for me, so it's just a case of me of getting the footballs and the cones in. I get to do more stuff on the football part, but I do help a hand and it's a lot easier, the club help us a lot. Motherwell feel that if you build a pathway, you get more faces in the game, so they're very supportive towards us, especially, and they're starting to do that towards other clubs that are coming up."
However, as Shaw points out, significant progress in promoting the women’s game has been made already: "Back then when I first joined, it was only 13s, 15s and there wasn't even a ladies team. There were just 13s, 15s, when I first joined three years ago, now the club have got a minor side, under-11s, under-13s, 15s, 17s, and we've now got a ladies team and are looking to make the step of a reserve team as well, so you can see that it's a work in progress but the club are building for the future."
Shaw and nine of his current players, including Simpson, will move up to the17s next year and are looking forward to further improvements.
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.
Riverside Athletic came back from one-nil down to win a dramatic encounter against Stirling City at Haws Park in Bridge of Allan.
In a tight first half, Athletic began the game on the wrong foot. With 25 minute played, they found themselves a goal behind when a City forward coolly slotted home from the penalty spot after being brought down in the box.
Half time: Riverside Athletic FC 0 Stirling City FC 1
After the interval, however, Athletic grit their teeth, started the second half with a bit more urgency and got their reward after 15 minutes. A good corner by Jordan White found Adam Sharp on the edge of the box, who then fired a fine shot beyond the otherwise excellent City goalkeeper.
Athletic were well on top afterwards, playing the better football, and it eventually paid off as they went ahead 10 minutes later through a brilliant solo effort by Garry Laird.
Despite further chances for both teams, the home side managed to hold out for a well-deserved victory which put them up to ninth place in the league table.
Full time: Riverside Athletic FC 2 Stirling City FC 1
Aaran Blackley again played well as stand-in goalkeeper for Athletic and there were good performances from Callum Peebles and Aarron Stevenson at the back.
The man of the match award goes to Luke Forsyth, who had another solid performance on the left.
Bargeddie Colts are a youth football club playing out of Bargeddie in the Monklands area of Lanarkshire and are playing their last year of non-competitive football in the Soccer Sevens. This year the club will be building their squad and developing the team to compete in the full 11-a-side version of the game. Youth Football Scotland managed to grab a word a word with 2004s coach Alan Kelly and youth player Ruaridh Howat during our recent Open Night at Glasgow's Woodside Hall.
Commenting on last season, Kelly said: “We had a decent season last year and the boy’s done really well, but our main aim is to develop their skills. We have also taken part in a football tournament in Blackpool, this time last year and in Easter.
“The boy’s done well and thoroughly enjoyed themselves. Last August we reached the semi finals and in Easter we won four and lost two of our games.”
Coach Kelly is looking forward to an important season ahead for his team. “We have actually already started our season and won our first two matches and we are about to head down to Blackpool over the bank holiday weekend for another football tournament. Everyone is really excited. Our football is non-competitive but the boys still like to do well in everything they do.”
Kelly’s main aim for the coming season, he says, is “to get everyone ready for entering full 11-a-side football next August and after this tournament in Blackpool is out of the way, we plan to build up the current numbers of our squad. We currently have ten boys playing for us and obviously that’s not enough, so we will be recruiting new players to develop for the next season’s 11-a-side team.”
Bargeddie Colts player Ruaridh Howat told YFS about his favourite part of being involved with Bargeddie Colts. “I just love playing football and the atmosphere at the Colts is really good and since being there I’ve met plenty of friends," he said. "My friend from home played at the Colts and one day I went along hoping to join my friend in the older side. There were not any places available, so Alan asked if I would like to play with the 2004s and so I did.”
Howat was enthusiastic about the prospect of new boys joining the team. “I know that we need new players joining us for next year, they should come along and join as it is fun and can be a good laugh with the rest of the boys in the team.”
Since YFS spoke to Kelly and Howat, the boys at Bargeddie Colts gave a good account of themselves at the BJFF tournament in Blackpool, remaining unbeaten until the quarter-finals where they were defeated on penalties.
Glen Thistle 2002s, a Rutherglen-based football team that have just completed their first season of 11-a-side football, have returned from a successful tour of Ireland and found themselves a new and very generous sponsor that has helped to keep the club going after a traumatic period which nearly saw the side go out of existence. Youth Football Scotland were fortunate in being able to speak to club chairman and manager Marcus Lawrence and team captain Jack Lawrence.
Marcus Lawrence gave YFS some of the background. “Our ethos is based on bringing local kids into the club and getting them involved in football," he said. "As all parents know, it can be really hard to get them away from their game consoles and playing outdoors, instil some more life experience and discipline into their lives.
“We strongly believe that the boys must have mutual respect for each other, without bias to others, whatever their religion, ethnicity or background. We have boys from all sorts of backgrounds, we can have kids from within social care in our teams that need one on one coaching to build up their confidence, which can be very rewarding.”
Since receiving new funding, Glen Thistle have been able to expand their training programme, as Marcus explained: “Pre-season training has been really good, we have managed to secure another training session at Toryglen on a Friday night, so we have two sessions now, with the other on a Tuesday.
“Before this, some kids may not have kicked a ball from the Tuesday until match day on Sunday morning. Now that we have the second night, it allows us to concentrate the serious training for Tuesday and a more relaxed session on Friday that focuses more on match preparation.”
Team captain and defender Jack Lawrence told YFS that “this season we are aiming to stay away from the bottom of the league and aiming to be closer to the top.”
On his team's recent visit to Ireland, he commented: “We play in a summer tournament every year, one year we play at home and the next they come to us usually. Playing football in Ireland during the summer was brilliant, we all loved it.” On playing for Glen Thistle, Jack was enthusiastic: “I love being able to play football and I get quite a lot out of being in the team and I’ve been able to make some friends.”
Coach Marcus was similarly thrilled with the club’s Irish trip. “During the Summer, our sponsor took us all on an all-expenses paid trip to Gweedore in Ireland for a mini-tournament. The boys all traveled by plane and were really enthusiastic about the whole experience. There is not many sponsors that would do something like that.
“They all got their new tracksuits and really looked the part and felt really good about themselves. When on our way home from Londonderry airport, there was an outgoing flight and all the passenger’s waved to the lads, making them feel important. So it was good, a real good experience for them.”
The aims for the fast approaching season are simple and realistic, according to the Club Chairman. “Last season was a really good warm-up for us as it was our first season and we were going through a tough time that almost saw us fold. But we are not setting our sights too high, as the Glasgow League is a tough competitive league with plenty of quality academy set-ups in there.
"We are a small club and have to rely on developing our own boys, as many of our players are unfortunately taken away by the larger clubs. That still gives us satisfaction as it is great to see them progress. I am hoping that as long as we stay off the bottom to around middle of the table, that will be fine.”
With over 20 years of experience coaching in girls football, Jim Erwin has seen it, done it and got the t-shirt. But last October the former Hamilton Academicals and Glasgow Girls coach took on an altogether different challenge: creating Motherwell’s new under-17s team.
Less than a year on from that decision and Erwin’s fledgling team have exceeded expectations to finish in the top eight at the halfway stage of the season, meaning they’ll be playing the latter half against the cream of the crop, including Rangers, Celtic, and Glasgow City. But Erwin admits it hasn’t been an easy journey.
“Last October/November the idea was to put together a team by February so they could be registered for the new season. At first the numbers were very low and we only had three or four girls training and I was worried a little. But just through word of mouth and with the help from Motherwell, who have been great with the promotional side of things, flyers and social media, plus I did an interview with Youth Football Scotland to get the message out there that Motherwell were trying to push the women and girl’s game forward," Erwin said.
"Now we’ve finished in the top eight with a bunch of girls who had only met each other for the first time and from different clubs and different backgrounds. Some are travelling from Stirling, some from Glasgow and some local girls from Motherwell”
One of the first of those girls to get involved with Erwin’s team was former Glasgow Girls player Lauryn Reside who admits the strong start the club have made has taken even the players by surprise. “We didn’t expect to do this well because we’d just started up but all the girls have come in and done really well”.
A modest player who doesn’t keep track of the number of goals she has scored - although she admits it’s a “good few” and her manager says she is on the scoresheet “most of the weeks she plays” - Reside is a right-winger turned striker thanks to Erwin, who has been impressed with her progress this season. “She’s doing fantastic in front of goal this season, especially considering she hasn’t always played there and we’re kind of trying to develop her into that position,” he said. “She’s got a real eye for goal.”
Erwin says Lauryn’s father is “over the moon” with her progress at the club and, for many of the Motherwell players, football is a chance to get away from tough home lives, something Erwin is happy to help with. “It’s been challenging because this group of girls are all from various backgrounds, some have had a hard time and came into football as escapism. For others, like Lauren, her confidence was low when she came in, but now she’s one of our main players and it’s been really positive."
With the foundations in place and the team beginning to show promise, there’s new challenges on the horizon for the ambitious Erwin who is pleased that Motherwell are backing his aspirations. “I’ve been at the top and won everything with a couple of teams and I’ve found myself starting at the bottom and trying to keep the score down, so this is a fresh challenge. But what’s positive is Motherwell are putting in a lot of time and resources.
"Recently the Ladies team have signed about half a dozen Premier League players. They’re in the Second Division at the moment but they’re streets ahead and the Premier League is where they want to be; that’s the calibre of player they’re signing. It’s my job to make sure I bring through good players like Lauren who want to match that aspiration and who can deliver.”
With a top half finish guaranteed, and expectations already exceeded, Erwin is targeting a 5th place finish for the club while also beginning to bring through fresh blood from the under-15s for next season.
“In our region you’ll find probably the four Scottish Cup semi-finalists - Celtic, Rangers, Glasgow City, and Central Girls - so it brings new demands on the girls but they want to challenge themselves. It’s probably a two-sectional league now with them and then us, Kilmarnock, Hamilton and Clark Drive, so we want to finish top of that group and if we can nick a couple of points off the bigger clubs challenging for the title then that would be fantastic.
"For me, it’s about getting the under-17s off the ground and we’ve already started integrating some of the girls from the 15s. They competed against Rangers on Saturday at Toryglen and won 3-0, so there’s some really top players there including some who are involved nationally so I’m very keen to work with them. I’d love to be working with a 17s team that can compete nationally.”
Before he can look too far into the future, however, there is the small matter of a League Cup quarter-final against heavy favourites Celtic at Barrowfield on Sunday. After coming through a close fought 3-2 extra time victory over Dumbarton in the last round, Erwin is looking forward to this tie. “This is the girls’ reward for that win, and it will be a big challenge.”
At the recent Youth Football Scotland open evening we caught up with Dougie Holmes, coach of Motherwell Phoenix boys club 2004s, and two talented Phoenix players Jamie Hamilton and Dylan Sharkey for a preview of the season ahead.
This was an interesting interview as it was discovered that Phoenix now have two squads following a transition year last season – both the ‘development’ and ‘elite’ squads are strong and are looking forward to the new season.
Holmes was first to be interviewed and the coach described how the club fared last season:
“It was a transition phase for us last year because we actually added a second team to the age group. Due to the structure of the Central Lanarkshire League we had an ‘Elite’ and a ‘Development’ section so we had an established team who played in the Elite section, which was very good, and we had new boys who came into the development section so it took a bit of time to get used to the new structure.”
The coach was also keen to highlight that the preparations for the coming season have been good, with the club playing in two tournaments just before the summer – Holmes shared the club’s aims for the coming season with us:
“The aim for both teams, obviously as we are still playing soccer sevens, is all about development. We’ve got kids who are playing in the development section who are always looking to push into the elite squad. Within the club we’ve had a lot of boys who have attended the ‘School of Soccer’ and the SFA’s 2020 Programme so we’re always looking for opportunities for our players to develop.”
The final word from Holmes was to highlight the way Phoenix play and the brand of football that the young players are encouraged to play:
“Our philosophy definitely revolves around passing; we play from the back; the keeper isn’t allowed to kick the ball long and is encouraged to roll the ball out. In training we look at doing a lot of three-touch drills; creating 1v1s, 2v2s, 3v3s etc during games which we can take into real matches at the weekends.”
We then had the opportunity to speak to two young Phoenix players, both of whom are part of the elite squad, who are delighted to be part of the club.
Firstly, defender Jamie Hamilton had his say on what he enjoys most about playing for his team:
“I like the training, I like playing football with my mates and playing matches on a Saturday – I love getting up early in the morning buzzing to play football.”
Hamilton then discussed his role in the squad:
“I normally play centre back but I like to think of myself as a centre midfielder; I always look to be on the ball and like to ping a pass.”
Sharkey was in similar spirits and seemed very happy with the structure of the club:
“I like [the fact] that we have two teams because we have more players who can test themselves out in the development squad before deciding if they like the club or not.”
The young player was in no doubt about why he loved playing for Phoenix:
“I really like the coaches, the way we play football and the games on a Saturday.”
Both squads will be participating in very strong leagues this year and will be looking to improve their skills and team chemistry before moving on to competitive football in the near future.
Personally, I would like to wish Motherwell Phoenix all the best for the coming season and I hope that the players continue to enjoy their football.
Motherwell Girls are currently at the halfway point of their season and are leading the way in the under-13s Leanne Ross League. At our recent Youth Football Scotland Open Night, we managed to catch up with coach Susie MacLellan and important first-team player Macy Macvarish to find out how the season has gone so far and what their ambitions are for the remaining matches.
Motherwell have been fantastic in the first half of the season and MacLellan was quick to sing the praises of her talented squad: "So far we’ve won seven games, lost one and drew one, so we’re competing at a high standard – it’s our first competitive season so we’re hoping to progress for next season as well."
Despite sitting top of the league, MacLellan was keen to highlight that the girls have learned more from defeat than victory: "Earlier in the season we played Celtic’s 13s [in the Scottish Cup] and suffered a heavy defeat, but the reaction of the players throughout the game was great, their work rate was second to none. At the next training session we worked on the mistakes we made, in the next game we put our training into practice and won the game comfortably – so it really shows the girls can learn from tough matches.”
MacLellan and the squad are looking positively towards the remainder of the season and are well one course to achieve their start-of-season objectives. He said: "We sat down at the start of the season as a group to discuss where we wanted to be at the end of the season and we all agreed that finishing in the top three would be an excellent achievement. Obviously being top with six or seven games left it would be great to win it but I think if we’ve reached the top three, we’ve achieved our goal."
YFS also spoke to defender Macvarish who, having played for the club for just over a year, gave us her personal thoughts on the season. "The season has been good so far, we’ve won a few games and only lost two [one in the league and one in the cup] so it has been good to play this year," Macvarish said.
Macvarish then told us what she liked most about being part of such a big club. “I really enjoy the experience of meeting other players and I love the training ground which is right in front of Fir Park, so it’s really good to see the stadium while we train.”
Finally, Macvarish was asked what she would say to persuade an aspiring player to join Motherwell and she offered a great overview of the club: “It is a great team to be part of, at the end of the day if we play as a team, we will win as a team, that’s what we do as a club.”
It has been a busy pre season for all connected with Knightswood FC under-17s, having returned from their end of season break in the middle of July, the lads have been working hard to push on from their efforts of last season, the highlight being their fantastic run to the Scottish cup semi-final.
After a couple of weeks building up fitness levels and a couple of practice matches to work on the technical side of the game, it was off on a wee football festival tour, which entailed three festivals in 14 days, a total of 15 games played.
First up was the Caledonian Youth Club festival in Prestwick, where the team reached the final, only to lose on penalties to St Cadocs.
Another weekend saw another festival, this time closer to home, it was the Glasgow City Cup, the lads again reached the final where they encountered reigning Scottish cup holders, Spartans FC. It was to be more disappointment for Knightswood, losing 2-0, however, there were a lot of positive to come out of the two festivals and the coaching staff were very pleased with the efforts of their team.
The team returned to Ayrshire to take part in their third and final festival before the season begins. The Kilwinning Community Sports Club was the venue and after four games, Knightswood would again contest the final, against the host club. In a pulsating game, which ended 1-1 after extra time, it would come down to the lottery of penalties to decide this final and it would be third time lucky for the boys from Knightswood, winning 3-2.
On summing up their pre season, team manager, Gary Soave stated I'm absolutely delighted for the boys, all their hard work over the last month has paid off and hopefully they will take this form into the new season"
Head coach, William Edgar commented: "I've never worked with a more talented bunch of players, I'm really excited to see what we can do this season."
Gartcairn Football Academy has it’s roots back in 1989 when a group of workmates from Airdrie decided to form their own team. It eventually folded due to a lack of players but reformed in 2007 as a football academy. Gartcairn are well known due to their belief that kids should enjoy their football first and foremost and have recently been making national news since forming a junior side that has been accepted by the Scottish Juniors FA into the West of Scotland League.
Club chairman Robert McCallum spoke to Youth Football Scotland, and he shared his reasons for forming the academy. "Like many footballers I had to retire from football due to family commitments. My son was beginning primary two and I thought that it would be great to put something back into the community by starting up a football academy. I had read a lot about the Quality Mark from the Scottish FA, so at the same time decided if I was going to take a team I would do it correctly.
"Before starting out, I sat and thought who am I to say to a child of six that they’re not good enough to play football? I didn’t really find my position (GK) until I was fifteen, but I still played it every day (as we all did) in the 70s and 80s. Nobody, as far as I’m concerned, has the right to say to a child that they’re not good enough for football at such a young age."
The children's progression, both on and off the pitch, is testament to the success of Gartcairn FA's ethos.
"Since adopting this idea, I must admit that I was surprised at the level of support from the other parents/coaches who then started up teams with the same ethos. There is nothing better than watching children progress to become good players who, simply, would have been rejected by many other teams," McCallum said.
"Thankfully it worked out. While we are not winning Scottish cups we are competing against teams who actively select the best they can. I must also state that it's not all about football – we now have over 500 children who, when in the same place, you can see the interaction between the age groups – they don’t know it but they are learning a life lesson here which will aid them when older.”
McCallum’s decision to form Gartcairn Juniors was down in part to his strong belief in giving kids a route to the top.
"My main reason for going, and always wanting to go juniors, is that it gives players a pathway to learn their trade, while moving up the ranks with their friends. If they go senior and maybe need a bit more experience then they come back down.
"There must be a balancing act – people say the old way is why we are where we are now – kids not playing on the streets enough etc. Well, we are the streets – the juniors are their platform and the seniors are their ambition!"
The junior side has created a bit of a buzz around the academy, so much so that McCallum said: "I now have children asking me at training sessions – when are the juniors playing? Is Jamie Pollock or Tam McManus training up here tonight?
"The kids are starting to idolize the players which is magnificent to see. The club has also seen an increase in participation. Last year's under-17 team now have 40+ players, so we’ve created two under-19s teams. Considering this is a ridiculously hard age group to keep one team going it’s a delight to have two teams going."
Two former academy players, Connor Shields and Lewis Tobin have made the move up to the junior squad.
"Lewis unfortunately got injured in a bounce game but he is without a doubt one to look forward to watching, the lad is quick and at such a young age very composed," McCallum said.
"Connor is exciting on the wings but was welcomed to junior football in his first five minutes with a right tasty challenge. He will learn from this and kick on, I’m sure, and this is where the senior / semi pro link shall come to fruition – it’s a learning curve for both the young lads but I would not be surprised at all to see them playing senior football before our season is over."