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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.”

Friday, 28 August 2015 09:47

Ambitious Motherwell exceed expectations

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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.”

Thursday, 27 August 2015 16:46

Motherwell Phoenix - The Season Ahead

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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. 

Monday, 31 August 2015 00:00

Motherwell Girls 13s - The Season so Far

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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."

Fixture: Syngenta Juveniles 2002s v Downtown United Soccer Club 
Competition: Loch Lomond International Festival
Venue: Airthrey
Date: 09/08/2015

"Awesome" was what the Americans said after the Cup final as captain Jack Sharples lifted yet another Cup for Syngenta Juveniles FC 2002.  As the two sides stepped out onto the Airthrey turf, this was Syngenta 2002s ninth cup final in 12 months as the sun shone down majestically on the Ochil Hills, and the football that followed matched the unbelievable backdrop. 

Syngenta Juveniles and the New York City favourites DUSC were straight into business from the first whistle with both teams playing at a fantastic tempo.  This was no game for the feint hearted as the two teams competed for every ball. 

There were few clear-cut chances in the first half the best falling to Kieran McLaughlin and Aaron Whitelaw who both put their shots wide.  At halftime the deadlock was yet to be broken as both sides took a well-earned rest. 

Half Time: Syngenta Juveniles 0-0 Downtown United Soccer Club

The second half started just as the first with both sides going hammer and tong trying to gain the upper hand. The tempo Syngenta were playing at was starting to pay dividends as chances were now coming more regularly and with 13 minutes remaining Syngenta won a penalty when Paddy Gillan was hauled down inside the box. Who else but Tristan Mcarthur to step up and rifle the ball past the sprawling American keeper.  Wild scenes as players and spectators celebrated Syngenta style. 

Only minutes later Syngenta were in behind again but Kieran pulled his shot wide after working hard to get himself into the position. The Yanks had nothing to lose as they poured players forward but the resilience and spirit shown by the Syngenta players could have put them alongside those at the Alamo. Magnificent scenes as the final whistle went and Syngenta for the second year running lifted the coveted Loch Lomond Cup.  Fantastic effort from Syngenta Juveniles FC 2002.

Full Time: Syngenta Juveniles 1-0 Downtown United Soccer Club





On Friday the Loch Lomond Festival will kick off for the 15th year, but for the first time it will host an elite section with four of the Under 17 sections of prestigious pro-youth clubs from England and Scotland taking part. Celtic FC, Partick Thistle, Fife Elite Football Academy and Sheffield United will all field teams in this invite-only category.

The tournament will host a one-off mini-league competition for the four clubs, with each club playing each other once, followed by a final between the top two in the group.

Celtic kick the competition off with a game against Sheffield United on Friday, and then follow that match up with fixtures against Fife Elite and Partick Thistle on Saturday and Sunday respectively.

Partick Thistle face Fife Elite to begin with, followed by Celtic and finishing up against Sheffield United on Sunday. This will be followed by the showpiece cup final.

Celtic enter the tournament after triumphing at the Denis Law Tournament in the last two seasons.

However, with that much talent on show and many possible future Scotland internationals playing in the tournament, the quality and competitiveness will definitely make the games worth watching.

The fixtures, which will all take place at Stirling University, are as follows:

Friday 7th August, 7pm
Celtic FC vs Sheffield United
Fife Elite Football Academy vs Partick Thistle
Saturday 8th August, 10am
Sheffield United vs Partick Thistle
Celtic FC vs Fife Elite Football Academy
Sunday 9th August, 1:15pm
Partick Thistle vs Celtic FC
Sheffield United vs Fife Elite Football Academy
Sunday 9th August, 3:15pm
Cup Final - 1st vs 2nd 
Sunday, 09 August 2015 00:00

Lenzie aim to push on from mid-table finish

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Lenzie Youth Club under-14s took their spot in the Cumbernauld and Kilsyth District league last season, with seven other teams challenging them for the title.

After Rochsoles, last year’s league winners, folded in December, Lenzie would have been hoping to capitalise. Unfortunately for head coach, Billy Inglis, after drawing eight out of 18 games, Lenzie found themselves out of the running for any title.

Inglis spoke to Youth Football Scotland to discuss the last season and next: "The seven teams in the league played each other on three occasions, they were all very much of the same standard, and anyone could beat each other."

"Our high in the league was beating the league leaders, Jimmy Johnstone Academy, and drawing with the third-placed Gartcairn. Both were good sides."

There was some light at the end of the tunnel for Lenzie. "We won the Blackpool Plate and the 30th anniversary Lenzie festival, both of them in 2015," Inglis said.

The head coach of the East Dumbartonshire side did not want to pick out any particular teams as league rivals for the next campaign, insisting that "probably all of our league competition [will challenge]".

Lenzie players began their pre-season preparations on the 29th of July. As well as having several bounce games in the pipeline, Inglis’s boys also have the Colts festival ahead of them, which will surely stand them in excellent stead for the season.

He also certainly feels that his team can improve in multiple areas: "[We want] better form in the CKYDL League, as several stronger teams have joined from the Central Scotland FA League."

Good luck to Lenzie Youth Club under 14s in the 2015/16 CKYDL League!


This weekend the Loch Lomond Festival kicks off for its 15th year, and with 70 teams of boys and girls coming from four different countries, the festival promises to provide another excellent footballing showcase.

Gordon Dickson, one of the co-founders of the festival told Youth Football Scotland that the Loch Lomond Festival is “recognised as Scotland’s finest Youth Soccer Festival.” With the roots of the festival in Balloch, Loch Lomond, due to what Dickson calls “steady growth”, the festival is now located at Stirling University.

After adding a successful under-14s pro-youth academy age group in 2014, Dickson said that “in 2015 we will host an under-17s pro-youth academy age group as well as soccer sevens Boys 2004-2006, Boys 1999-2003 and girls 1998 and 2000 for 11 v 11 matches.”

With teams as notable as Celtic, Partick Thistle and Sheffield United gracing the turf alongside young footballers from across Scotland coming from as far away as Shetland, the quality of the football on show will surely be high and competitive. Not only does the festival attract the best of Scotland, but with five teams travelling from the USA and Northern Ireland being represented in two age groups by Lisburn Rangers, the tournament’s reputation as the premier youth football festival in Scotland is evident.

On top of this, Dickson states that “we also welcome scouts from the Scottish National team programmes and from the UK’s top professional clubs who all take the opportunity to identify the top talent on show.”

It is not all about football though, Dickson said that "the event unites young athletes from around the world who leave our country with the very best memories and many new friends.

"[We] hope that it is a platform for young players to perform in a competitive and sporting manner, but at the same time have fun…We also have a social program which aids the promotion of friendship throughout the event."

Despite the fact that the festival is competitive in the older age groups, Dickson had these words of advice for the players coming to Stirling. “Put 100% effort in to your game, play in a sporting manner and above all have fun and seize the opportunity to meet new friends.”

With a varied list of past winners at the festival, including Rangers SABC, Burnhead Colts, Falkirk FC, Shetland, Upper Vancouver Island United (Canada) and Seacoast United (USA) we here hope that the weekend is enjoyable for all involved and good luck to all taking part!