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Last weekend's action across the country was largely halted by the intervention of Jack Frost. Fortunately the snow has seemed to pass and we are looking at having a full card of fixtures on show this weekend.
Cup competitions are the focus this week, with Scottish Cup quarter finals taking place at U13 and U14 level.
Here are the pick of the games from across the country this weekend:
Portobello CFA vs West Lothian U13 - Stewart Brien Cup - Quarter Final
Both of these sides occupy the top two places in the SERYFA U13's First Division, meaning that we can expect a really close contest in thei Stewart Brien Cup Quarter Final match.
Portobello will go into the match as favourites, having fared much better in cup competitions this season than their opponents, as well as still holding a 100% record in the league.
West Lothian will be motivated however. They are in good form and sit top of the league at the moment. They will also be looking to avenge their defeat against Portobello earlier in the season in the Lothian Buses Cup, losing 5-2. Here is hoping for another high-scoring game on Sunday.
Dundee Celtic BC vs East Craigie Swifts U15 - Tommy Clark Trophy - Semi Final
These two played each other in December, with Dundee Celtic emerging as 1-0 winners, and a close match is expected once again in this highly anticipated semi final clash in the DDYFA.
Both sides are pushing hard in the league, occupying the second and third spots in the DDYFA U15s G Taylor League. Celtic occupy second, just two points above East Craigie having played one game more.
East Craigie will be looking to avenge their defeat to Celtic earlier in the season and both teams will be hoping that this game beats the weather.
Banks O'Dee Albion vs Dyce BC U15 - ADJFA U15's A League
A match with real ramifications at the top of the ADJFA A League takes place this weekend as Dyce BC travel to Spain Park to take on Banks O'Dee Albion.
Both sides have had great runs in the Scottish Cup. Banks O'Dee made it to the fifth round before being cruelly knocked out on penalties in a classic against Kilsyth Athletic, whilst Dyce have made it to the semi finals of the competition.
The last meeting between these two ended in a 1-1 draw so it will be interesting to see if anyone can come out on top this time.
EKFC Blue vs Hurlford BC U19 - Scottish Youth FA Cup - Quarter Final
Familiar opponents for both of these teams this weekend. These two contested the Scottish Cup Final last season and will clash for a place in this season's semis.
On that occasion it was EKFC who emerged victorious with a 2-1 win after extra time and it is expected that this match on Sunday will be equally close.
Hurlford will have their eyes set on revenge as well as a semi final place, whilst EKFC will be looking to complete consecutive cup triumphs.
Livingston goalkeeper Liam Kelly believes coaching is vital to a young shot-stopper and insists happiness will help young keepers reach the top.
Kelly was on hand to make a guest appearance at GK Icon’s free taster session on Friday night, with the training being led by Clyde’s goalkeeper coach Chris Fahey and Stranraer goalkeeping coach Eric Phillips. He explained why he wanted to help Fahey’s and Phillips’ initiative.
“I’ve came to support GK Icon because of the great work Chris and Eric do with the young kids. They give a lot back to the young goalkeepers in the Paisley and Renfrewshire area, so I want to be able to support that and answer a few questions the kids may have. I’m just happy they have the chance to work with great coaches like Eric and Chris."
Kelly is enjoying his first stint as a regular Premiership goalkeeper, having left boyhood club Rangers in the summer. He has played a vital part in what has been a great season back in the top flight for Livi. He shared his thoughts on what he thinks is key for a young keeper in the modern game.
“I think it’s important to listen, that’s a big thing. You should have an opinion, tell your coaches what you see and just try and get better everyday and in every training session.
“Every game you have an opportunity to become a better player, a better person and a better goalkeeper. Everytime you have a ball and a set goals with your mates is a chance to improve as a keeper, so just give it your best shot. As long as your happy just try and play to the best of your ability.”
Having made it to the top level, Kelly is aware of how hard it is to make it as a professional goalkeeper, and the demands of the modern game. He gave his advice on the best way for young keepers to develop their skills.
“When you get the opportunity to work with great coaches like Eric and Chris, I would take it if I was their age.
“In the grand scheme of things in terms of their career, it’s all about being happy. When times are tough just remember there is another game around the corner to put it right. Just enjoy playing your football, and then you can try and get to the highest level possible, wherever that is.”
Clyde goalkeeper coach Chris Fahey is helping young keepers learn from the best- and hopes that his GK Icon sessions encourage youngsters to put on the gloves.
Fahey runs his GK Icon sessions every Monday and Friday at the MOBO Sports Arena in Paisley alongside Stranraer goalkeeping coach Eric Phillips. He enlisted the help of Livingston keeper Liam Kelly and Falkirk’s David Mitchell to help run a free taster session for young goalkeepers.
He hopes the kids have learned from their experience training with professional keepers: “I was really pleased with the turnout we got. There were about 60 or 70 kids here, so that was good. They all had smiles on their face, and I hope they have learned something from me, David, Liam and Eric.
“I was pleased Liam and David came along and gave that bit of inspiration to the boys and girls that were here. They are playing at a really good level, so it’s good for the kids to see them here.”
Fahey and Phillips’ sessions are all about learning the fundamentals of goalkeeping, whilst enjoying themselves in the process. Fahey revealed his own experiences growing up inspired him to start up his own goalkeeper sessions for youngsters.
“When I was a kid, I never had any goalkeeping coaching. When I was young you were told to go into the corner, and kick a ball around with each other, I never really knew about technique or how to become a goalkeeper.
“That’s why myself and Eric started this. We now have a bit of experience behind us, and hopefully we can pass that on to the kids.
“Some of the kids we train do the same drills now as the ones I do with Clyde’s first team, the kids just pick it up very quickly.”
Having played for many teams across Scotland, including Albion Rovers, Raith Rovers, and Stenhousemuir, Fahey has plenty of goalkeeping wisdom and knowledge he can pass on to aspiring keepers.
He shared his top tips for young goalkeepers: “The main thing is being told how to be a goalkeeper. This means they won’t pick up bad habits from a guy who has never played in goals before.
“Guys like me and Eric have played professionally all our lives and we have guys that are professional just now coming in and telling them what to do and what not to. Coming to classes like this even if it’s only an hour a week will really help their development.
“My biggest piece of advice for a young goalkeeper, and their parents, is if they make a mistake don’t worry about it. Turn on Match of the Day on a Saturday night and you’ll see players on £100,000 a week making mistakes. You just have to get on with it.
“The biggest thing about being a goalkeeper is to learn from mistakes and try not do it again. All goalkeepers make mistakes. I think managers and parents have to realize that."
Stephen McManus believes Motherwell have done all the right things to deliver a successful youth academy.
McManus was part of the Scotland squad that featured at Star Sixes, valiantly fighting for a joint third place finish in the star-studded tournament.
His focus now returns to Motherwell, where he coaches at various levels, from U18s, to the first team and the former Scotland international says the club have the right staff working with the different groups at Motherwell.
“I’ve been working at all different stages at the club, from youths to the first team I’m not really in the academy as much myself, I’m based at Fir Park. I am dealing with the academy for about an hour and a half a day, but the people at the club have been great with them.
“Steven Hammell and David Clarkson are based at Braidhurst, whilst I’m based at Fir Park. It’s good to have people in the right areas developing footballers for the first team.”
Motherwell have several young academy graduates in their team, with Chris Cadden, Allan Campbell, and David Turnbull all regular features in Stephen Robinson’s matchday squad. 16-year old Stuart McKinstry was named on the bench for the Steelmen’s Boxing Day fixture, highlighting the pathway to the first team for young stars.
McManus hopes to not only produce players who will play for Motherwell, but stars that will go on to become household names.
“We want to grow players that want to play for their country and play at the highest stage they possibly can. We have people that are ambitious all the way throughout the club, and these people are helping to drive the club forward.
“Whatever team you’re in, obviously the goal is the first team, but ultimately the aim has to be to play for your country and play in the biggest games you can.”
McManus thinks Fir Park boss Robinson is a massive part in this motivation for youngsters. He has seen the Northern Irishmen deliver the important message of youth development at Fir Park first hand.
“The manager really drives the message to our youths. He wants them in the first team, so he can sell them on, and see them play for their country, wherever there from. The fans demand good players, so through our academy, we try and produce good talent.”
Former England goalkeeper David James believes that money has its pros and cons for youth development, but thinks the modern game allows young players to grow and mature.
The ex-Three Lions stopper was in Glasgow for the Star Sixes tournament, which his side eventually won, beating the Rest of The World 3-2 in the final. James spoke before the final day of games about how hard it was for him to break into squads as a youngster.
“There’s a boy I’ve been speaking to whilst I’ve been here, who I used to play with in my school boy team at Watford. I didn’t recognize him because it was a few years ago now. At that stage in football though, we had four apprentices at Watford.
“These schoolboys played with the youth team, so the opportunities were difficult back then because there were less spaces to fill. The influx of money means more players can be afforded opportunities”
With more time being given for players to develop, it has given young stars a greater period to grow, as both a footballer and a person. James offers Southampton goalkeeper Angus Gunn as a prime example of this.
“Players like Angus Gunn. Gunn is 24, and prior to his spell at Norwich last year, he hadn’t played a professional game. In a sense, it’s took him till 22 years old to make a professional appearance. You would never have got away with that 20 years ago. There’s more numbers in the game, but there is more space to get into a better position.”
James feels that an extended growth period in academies are a great way for youth prospects to fully prosper in modern football, but knows how hard it can be to break through, regardless of the circumstances.
“The money has allowed people to grow, rather than the difficulty to get into a starting 11. I think it’s given people longer periods to develop. Smaller clubs suffer though, because they haven’t got the money to hand out equal opportunities.”
“It’s never easy, when you do the numbers it’s something like 2,500 positions that have to be filled. That’s not many, and when you've got players like Joe Cole who have had long careers, sometimes these positions don’t come about very often.”
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