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Sunday, 06 August 2017 20:13

The Next Step: Young Accies

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Every year across Scotland, a handful of young men fulfill their boyhood dreams when they sign full-time for a football club. Here at YFS we're putting the spotlight on the new kids on the block who've just made the grade from youth academy level to the professional game, as they make the next step in their promising careers. Here, focus is on Hamilton Academical.
 
Alan Hansen once famously said “you can’t win anything with kids” but the management staff at Hamilton must have not watched Match of the Day that week because for years now they have prided themselves on a strong ethos of youth development. Hamilton finished 53rd, two places above FC Barcelona, in Europe for percentage of minutes played by home-grown players last season and were the only UK team in the top 100 clubs. A fantastic honour which when paired with the fact that they are entering their fourth consecutive season in the top flight of Scottish football, just shows the true extent of the success of their youth academy in recent years.
 
Some youth academy graduates have also gone on to taste remarkable success down south in recent years, James McArthur and James McCarthy being notable mentions with their moves to Wigan in 2009/10 going on to win an FA Cup final just three years later, but also Stephen Hendrie who signed for West Ham United in 2014 and midfielder Daniel Armstrong who transferred to Wolves in 2015.
 
This conveyer belt of gifted Scottish players doesn’t seem to be stopping either as we look at the next vein of players signing their first professional contracts at the Superseal Stadium.
 
Ross Connelly
 
Goalkeeper Connelly alternated most of the Under 17 season last year with Kieran McDougall as both gave many memorable performances to repeatedly knock each other out of the starting 11. Connelly helped Hamilton to a fourth place finish in the league and a sizeable goal difference of +46 but he really showed his talents when the team travelled to Normandy in June to play in the ESMGO International Under 17s Tournament. The competition featured other reputable youth teams such as Charlton Athletic who have produced Chris Powell and Danny Murphy in the past and Dinamo Moscow whose youth graduates include Russian internationals Pavel Pogrebnyak and Aleksei Ionov.
 
Hamilton went on to win the competition for the second time in a row, with Connelly in the squad both times but he was given more of a chance to shine this year as his opposite number Jon McCracken had moved to Norwich, therefore giving the number 1 shirt to Connelly. Hamilton only conceded three goals as Connelly and his defenders were awarded the trophy for Best Defence.
 
Ross Connelly was also chosen to represent the Scottish Schools FA Under 18 team in April still aged 16 where he kept a clean sheet to help Scotland to their first victory in the Centenary Shield competition over Northern Ireland since 1986.
 
This amalgamation of great performances in the league, international competitions and being chosen for the Schoolboys national side resulted in him being offered a full-time professional contract with Hamilton where he’ll train and play in the Under 20s team with a view to eventually make his first team debut. And that opportunity could come earlier than expected as many players have made their debuts at 17 like James McArthur, James McCarthy came into the team at 15 and Mark Hill, who later moved to Celtic, sat on the substitutes bench as young as 13, so Connelly should know that he has a great chance of breaking into the first team as long as he keeps up the hard work he has committed to in his career so far.
 
Adam Douglas
 
Douglas was another of the players to be in the ESMGO International Under 17s tournament winning team as the centre back helped secure a watertight defence which helped them lift the trophy again.
He was a pivotal part of the defence both in France and domestically as Hamilton conceded the second least goals in the league. Douglas was appointed the vice-captain of the Under 17s team and wore the armband in the absence of Lewis Smith.
Hamilton has been sending a team to the D&K Lafferty Cup pre-season competition in Oban since 2003, for the third time in four years they lifted the cup despite only fielding a squad filled with 17-20 year-olds. Despite this, they won the competition with ease, scoring 13 goals in the four games and conceding none. This competition came just after Douglas signed his professional contract so the Hamilton management staff would have been happy to see him continuing his fantastic defending ability into his career as a now full-time player.
 
Taylor Wilson
 
Wilson made his debut for the Under 20s aged just 14 when he was subbed on for player/manager Martin Canning in April 2016. From then on, the defender has been regularly playing in the Under 17s and represented Scotland at Under 16 level in the Victory Shield where he opened the scoring in a 2-0 win over Northern Ireland.
Wilson has made many of the same achievements that the other players mentioned so far have made, but Wilson is remarkable in the way he has done them at such an early age. Wilson travelled to France in 2016 at age 14 and again in 2017 where he started in the final in the youngest team in the tournament. Wilson was also in Oban where his defence didn’t leak a single goal. Wilson seems like a real talent who should be earmarked by scouts all over Europe.
 
The final player to sign full-time for 2017-18 was Leon McCann, a fullback which means you could almost make up a back four and goalkeeper just with the players who have signed professional this season. McCann was in Oban, started the final in Normandy and was a fifth of that defensive 5 which got Hamilton their fourth place finish in the Under 17 league amongst strong Rangers, Celtic and Aberdeen teams.
 
McCann was a graduate of Braidhurst high school which was designated a Scottish FA Performance School in 2013. This was the initiative – Scotland United: A 2020 Vision – set up by the former First Minister Henry McLeish and Stewart Regan, the chief executive of the Scottish FA, as they aimed to have Scotland perform better at all levels by 2020. One of the pillars of this vision was the seven performance schools which were set up to nurture the best Scottish talent and get them involved in local teams with a view to have them in the national team one day. Leon McCann is a prime example of one of these players trained by Braidhurst High School and now signing a professional contract with Hamilton Academical, Hamilton also has two other Performance School graduates in their u17s ranks in the forms of Kieran McDougall and Marley Redfern.
 
Judging by the rapid progress of these players and the history of Hamilton’s famous youth academy, the manager Martin Canning can be confident that his club will continue to have a vast pool of confident, gifted and already experienced players coming up the ranks pushing for a first team place. The work of George Cairns in the youth academy has been excellent in recent years so Hamilton supporters should begin learning the names of these players because they will undoubtedly be walking out to the thousands of fans at the Superseal Stadium in no time.
Sunday, 06 August 2017 19:37

The Next Step: Young Hibees

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Every year across Scotland, a handful of young men fulfill their boyhood dreams when they sign full-time for a football club. Here at YFS we're putting the spotlight on the new kids on the block who've just made the grade from youth academy level to the professional game, as they make the next step in their promising careers.
 
It’s coming up for ten years since Hibernian FC opened the East Mains training centre. After spending £5m on the state of the art centre, Hibs hoped this would see a steady stream of young, hungry talent coming through the doors at Easter Road.
 
The new facilities have seen some success, with the likes of Oli Shaw and Ryan Porteous recently breaking into the first team as the latest in a steady crop of young players finding their way into the first team at Hibs, and coaches are quietly optimistic over the talent coming through the ranks. 
 
Yrick Gallantes
 
One such player, is striker Yrick Gallantes. Gallantes was spotted by Hibs scouts after impressing them with his pace, eye for goal and ability to bring his other teammates into the game whilst playing for Newcraighall Leith Vics.
 
Hibs’ coaches were quick to spot Gallantes’ potential, and even included him in some SPFL Development League matches towards the tail end of last season, at the young age of just 15 and scored his first goal for the side in a 5-0 victory against St Johnstone.
 
Manager Neil Lennon was coy on the forward’s potential, telling the Daily Mail: “I’m in no rush to push him forward, we want him to develop with the rest of them. I’m not saying he’s an outstanding talent but he’s got something because the guys think he’s good enough to make an impact.”
 
Kane O'Connor
 
With Gallantes offering an exciting talent at one end of the pitch, Kane O’Connor is hoping to offer some stability to the Hibs rearguard in the future. O’Connor was recently handed his first professional contract in January of this year, after a string of impressive performances in the Development team and for Scotland Under 17s, including appearing in the Victory Shield last year.
 
Hibernian have overseen O’Connor’s development for the last seven years, and will be hoping this time will have prepared him to break into the first team once deemed ready.
 
Speaking to Hibernian FC, O’Connor, who can play in the middle of defence as well as right back, said: “I’m very proud, I’ve worked hard to get to this point for seven years and it’s good to be here.
 
Playing with some first team players who have a lot of experience and they do help you, and playing against experienced players means that you get to see how physical and how much ability they have which is much higher that you are used to playing against in the Under 17s.”
 
With fellow defender Ryan Porteous gaining more first team opportunities, O’Connor will be hoping to showcase his talents to further his development before reaching his ultimate goal of breaking into the first team.
 
Josh Campbell
 
The two players recently graduated into the Hibs Academy’s professional ranks, along with 17-year-old Josh Campbell.  The centre half made his debut for the development team last year, despite being only 16 and scored his first goal in September, a memorable late winner against St Mirren.
 
The head of the academy at Hibs, Eddie May, was full of praise for the trio as they graduated. He said: “Josh, Yrick and Kane have all performed incredibly well in training sessions and in matches, and it is a testament to their ability that they have all contributed to the Development Squad.”
 
The next step for these young players will be to show the same desire and hunger that they have to come as far as they have in their young ages. It is also down to Hibernian to utilise the facilities they have with their £5m training centre to maximise the player’s potential.
 
The only certainty is that Hibs have an exciting group of young players coming through their ranks, and supporters and coaches alike will hope to see the results of the state of the art facility come through with talents such as Gallantes, O’Connor and Campbell to take back their place as one of the prominent figures in Scottish football.

 
It has been well documented that one of the most decorated and successful coaches in women’s football, Eddie Wolecki Black, suffered a near fatal stroke whilst head coach of North Lanarkshire team Airdrieonians. Luckily he’s been able to make a partial recovery, thanks to the swift and efficient work of the resident medical staff at the Excelsior Stadium and within our NHS. He currently continues his recovery, dealing with the effects of the event every day.
 
Luckily Eddie’s family have discovered an opportunity which involves travelling to America to book experimental treatment to iron out some of these unfortunate after effects of the stroke. But, as with most things in life, it’s going to cost significant sums, so a supporter of Eddie’s cause has opened a donations portal to raise the quoted numbers of £10,000. Various members of the coaching community have taken part in some fundraising activities to contribute to the big target and fantastic progress is being made.
 
Football-wise Eddie has been an inspiration for many coaches, his focus on player development and demands for high standards have led to many players progressing to senior careers.
 
If you wish to donate and can spare something out the tips jar, perhaps simply spare change from your recent delivery, and head on over to https://www.gofundme.com/3sw53jc
Three women attending Scottish universities have been selected to play for Britain’s female football team in Taipei, Taiwan, in the World University Summer Games 2017. 
 
The competition, which begins in August 19, occurs every two years and the British team will be sending 163 athletes to take part in 11 varied sports.  These sporting events include: archery, athletics, golf, men’s water polo, men’s weightlifting, rhythmic gymnastics, swimming, table tennis, taekwondo, tennis, women’s football, women’s water polo and women’s weightlifting. 
 
Britain submitted a squad full of 20 players for the World University Summer Games including Demi-Lee Falconer (University of Stirling), Katy Morris (University of Stirling) and Kirsty Howat (University of Edinburgh). Scottish coach Grant Scott is also a member of the management team for the women’s football as assistant coach. Grant was head coach of the Scottish Student Team that won the Home Nations tournament in April 2017.
 
Falconer is a defender who attends the University of Stirling. She also played for Murieston United at Under 17s level. There Falconer enjoyed great success, including an emphatic victory in the 2012 Scottish Cup final against Glasgow Girls. Falconer also won the Heart’s First Team Players’ Player of the Year in 2014.
 
Also coming from the University of Stirling is midfielder Katy Morris. Together Falconer and Morris were part of the University of Stirling team who won the British Universities Women’s Cup final both Morris and Falconer scored in a resounding 8-0 win.
 
 
The third and final student at a Scottish university being called up for the woman’s football squad is striker Kirsty Howat. Howat has been described as a striker who will score goals wherever she plays and that has certainly been the case in her youth career. Howat enjoyed much success when she played and scored in Rangers 17s victory in the 2013 17s SWF West League Cup Final against rivals Celtic. Later in 2016, Howat signed for Celtic and plays for them alongside her studying at the University of Edinburgh. In the Home Nations tournament, Howat scored to take Scotland to penalties with England from 1-0 down and also dispactched her attempt from the spot as Scotland went on to win the tournament.

 
Wednesday, 02 August 2017 10:28

SPFL Hot Prospects: Dundee

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Who is Scottish football’s next big thing? Who could be the next James McFadden or Andy Robertson? Here at Youth Football Scotland we’re casting our eye over the main SPFL teams to find just who’s on the cusp of breaking out, as the kick off to the 2017-18 league season edges ever closer.
 
In this edition, we will be look at the hot prospects at Dundee.
Mark O’Hara is a 21-year-old midfielder known for his versatility on the football pitch. Despite his age, O’Hara has already earned over 100 SPFL Premiership appearances, for both Dundee and Kilmarnock. It was at the Ayrshire club where after moving through the youth ranks, he made his first team debut at the age of 16, in a 2-0 win over Celtic in 2012.  
 
The boy from Barrhead originally started his career in defence. That changed upon his arrival at Dundee last year when then manager Paul Hartley felt O’Hara would be best suited as an attacking midfielder. Since signing for the Dee, O’Hara notably scored in the 2-1 win against Rangers back in February – a first home league victory over the Gers since 1992. He also scored in his first Dundee Derby yesterday in the League Cup, with his equaliser taking the game to penalties. United took the spoils on this occasion, but O’Hara will be hoping his goal will be a taste of things to come for this coming season as Dundee look to thrive under the new era of Neil McCann.
Glen Kamara, is a 21-year old defensive midfielder, who will be hoping to reignite his once promising career, at Dens Park. The dogged ball-winning player joined Dundee this summer after a five-year spell spent at the youth ranks of Arsenal came to an end.    
 
Kamara, who spent his first 12 years of his life in Finland, left Arsenal after a lack of first team opportunities. His only appearance came in a forgettable 3-0 defeat away to Sheffield Wednesday in the League Cup back in 2015. He also was an unused sub for Arsenal’s Champions League match with Galatasaray the previous year. The Finn was sent out on loan on two occasions, having stints at Southend and Colchester United, yet failed to materialise into permanent moves. Kamara also received a call up to the Finnish national side two years ago. 
 
His time at Arsenal was perhaps a case of bad timing for both parties, but now Kamara will be hoping the move to Dundee will be his chance to display his talent to not only the Dundee faithful but the SPFL Premiership.  
 
Having featured in Dundee’s early League Cup fixtures, manager Neil McCann told the Evening Telegraph: “Glen is terrific. He’s one that has come in and made a real impact.”
 
 
Wednesday, 02 August 2017 10:00

SPFL Hot Prospects: Aberdeen

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Who is Scottish football’s next big thing? Who could be the next James McFadden or Andy Robertson? Here at Youth Football Scotland we’re casting our eye over the main SPFL teams to find just who’s on the cusp of breaking out, as the kick off to the 2017-18 league season edges ever closer.
 
Here, we look at the hot prospects on the cusp of breaking out for Aberdeen.
 
Every new season presents new challenges and new opportunities – especially for young players. Opportunities for youngsters can be even more limited at sides the more successful they are. Aberdeen have found plenty of success in the past few season and have plenty of options in the transfer market due to the windfall from a Johnny Hayes transfer to Celtic. Nonetheless, there are still a few players at Pittodrie who could be prepared to make the breakthrough to first team football this season. Who will be the next player in the Granite City to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Ryan Jack, Peter Pawlett and Ryan Fraser?
With another long season ahead, rotation of the squad will be key for Derek McInnes at Aberdeen. Injuries will only increase the potential of chances for the likes of 19-year-old central midfielder Frank Ross. Born just north of the city in Ellon, Ross has been described as a creative player who makes good use of both his feet. After making his debut against Dundee in 2015, Ross has continued to be transitioned into Mcinnes’s first team plans – being somewhat of a regular on the bench at Pittodrie last term, racking up eight first team appearances to date. Ross also regularly trains with the first team.  The midfielder has found success not just at club youth level, but with his country too – Ross was a part of Scotland’s Victory Shield winning side in 2014. Aberdeen boss McInnes told Aberdeen FC’s website: “[Frank] is a very talented player and one we think highly of,” when Ross inked a new deal at Pittodrie in 2016.
Born even closer to Aberdeen, in the village of Balmedie, winger Scott Wright has already made an impression on the Aberdeen faithful. At just 19 Wright has been a name supporters have wanted to see more of since his debut in a Europa League qualifier against Daugava Riga in 2014. 17 appearances later the young winger may find a route into Mcinnes’s plans after the departures of Niall McGinn, Johnny Hayes and Peter Pawlett who excelled in the wide areas. Wright has been praised for his direct approach, his ability to play on both sides of the pitch and has been described by his manager as a natural ball carrier. Wright’s hat trick against Partick Thistle at the tail end of last season saw the youngster earn himself a brief cameo in Aberdeen’s losing effort against Celtic in the Scottish Cup Final. Wright, who has made 23 appearances at youth level for the Scotland team looks set to challenge for a place with the SPFL runners up this term, with his manager saying on RedTV after a recent friendly victory over Brechin City: “We are expecting a lot from Scott this season.” 
 
Monday, 31 July 2017 09:24

SPFL Hot Prospects: Partick Thistle

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Who is Scottish football’s next big thing? Who could be the next James McFadden or Andy Robertson? Here at Youth Football Scotland we’re casting our eye over the main SPFL teams to find just who’s on the cusp of breaking out, as the kick off to the 2017-18 league season edges ever closer.
 
Here, our focus is on the young exciting prospects coming through at Partick Thistle.
Partick Thistle began this season in disappointing fashion, losing on penalties to Livingston in the League Cup but have bounced back in style with wins over St Mirren and Airdrieonians. Blair Spittal has been the catalyst in this upturn in form, scoring twice in the 5-0 win against St Mirren and the winner against Airdrieonains. Thistle signed Spittal from Dundee United on a two-year contract, after a three-year spell at the Tangerines. Still only 21, and after scoring three goals in his first three games for his new club, this is a real opportunity for the exciting winger as he rejoins the top flight.
 
Spittal began his career as he youngster at Rangers, and spent two years in the youth academy before joining Queen's Park. He attended Park Mains High School in Erskine and was selected for the Scottish Schools FA Centenary Shield squad in 2012. A month earlier, he made his first team debut for Queen's as a 16-year-old, against Montrose. He established himself as a first team regular in his second season, making 41 appearances and scoring 12 goals. Both Dundee clubs were interested in signing him but Spittal decided to follow his former team mates Aidan Connolly and Andy Roberston in signing for Dundee United, where he made 83 appearances over three seasons. Blair Spittal will now be hoping to emulate many former United players, such as Stuart Armstrong and Roberston, in being a regular for the national side and playing more consistently in the top division.
Another exciting prospect this season is Kevin Nisbet, a 20-year-old striker who is a former member of the Thistle youth academy. Nisbet made a huge impact in the Firhill side's development squad, scoring a hat-trick against Falkrik and making 18 appearances in total. He spent six months on loan at East Stirlingshire in 2015, scoring six goals in only 11 games and earning a first team debut the following season. Last season Nisbet joined Ayr United for the second half of the season, and must have impressed manager Alan Archibald as he has made three appearances already this season, albeit from the bench. He will be desperate to prove his worth this season and play a big part in the first team.
"It's a massive credit to Andy for adjusting and performing so well." This is how Alan Archibald (per BBC Sport) described teenager Andrew McCarthy after he was thrown into the starting lineup last season in a 2-2 draw against Hearts in very short notice, and the manager was mightily impressed with how the youngster coped in only his second start in the top flight. Archibald was also confident enough to hand the young midfielder his first start in early April in a 1-1 draw at Celtic Park. Still only 18, it seems that he will also have a big part to play this season for Thistle having made two substitute appearances in the League Cup this season.
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
The Gothia Cup is the world’s largest youth football tournament, with around 1,700 teams representing 80 countries taking part. 820,000 people watched online as games were streamed live from Gothenburg. Six Scottish clubs sent teams to compete in the tournament, with mixed fortunes.
 
Aberdeen FC
 
The Dons sent just one team – their Under 17s - to Gothenburg with high hopes and were rewarded in their first match, a 2-1 win over IFK Gothenburg of Sweden. In their two remaining group stage games, Aberdeen were defeated; a 3-1 loss to Gamba Osaka from Japan and a 2-1 defeat to Swedish side AIK. The Dons were on track to take AIK to penalties before conceding a late goal. In the last 16, Aberdeen faced Djurgarden of Sweden and came back from two goals down to draw the match 2-2, with goals from Joseph MacPherson and Lyall Booth. Aberdeen went on to lose the shootout 5-4 as their run in the tournament ended.
 
Boroughmuir Thistle (pictured above)
 
The only team in Scotland to send girls teams, Boroughmuir Thistle sent two teams of Under 12s to contest in Gothenburg. Boroughmuir were chosen to represent Scotland at the opening ceremony at a packed 50,000-seater stadium. The first team were defeated in each of their group games against Toronto High Park FC of Canada and two Swedish outfits: IK Zenith and Orby IS. They dropped into the B playoff and were subsequently beaten 5-0 by Sweden’s Kullavik IF. The second team fared a little better; they were defeated in each of their group games against Canadian and Swedish opposition, but won their knockout match against Rodsle BK from Sweden. In the last 16, Orby IS overcame Boroughmuir 2-0 and their cup run was over.
 
Scott Freeborn, manager, said: “I think it was a great experience for them. Just travelling around the city you’d see so many teams from all around the world and you’d get talking to them. I’m sure the girls are feeling inspired and ready to move up to the next level, and that will stand them in good stead going forward.”
 
Currie Star FC
 
Currie Star sent six teams from four age groups to compete at the Gothia Cup - three teams of Under 12s, an Under 13s, an Under 14s and an Under 18s. The third group of Under 12s performed admirably, competing against opponents from Sweden, Brazil and Mexico whilst overcoming another of Currie Star’s teams on the way. The 18s can look back on their tournament with pride; victories over Sweden’s Frolunda (1-0) and VfR Bachem of Germany (2-0) gave them a flying start in the group stages. Cruelly, they conceded a late goal against Burnley College Football Academy, losing the game 1-0, which meant that they dropped into the lower playoff despite finishing their group on six points. It meant that Bachem finished ahead of Currie Star by a single goal in the Goals For column. They were then knocked out in the next round by Swedish side Kallerad SK by four goals to nil.
 
Chairman John Brock said: “The feedback from the coach was that the boys had a fantastic time. Our oldest group won their first two games in the group stage then lost the last one with the last kick of the ball which was a bit of a blow, because it meant they finished third. It was really draining for the players but the boys put as much as they could into it in terms of preparation and applying themselves.”
 
Hutchison Vale FC
 
Hutchison Vale also took part in the opening ceremony alongside Boroughmuir and are sure to remember the experience for a long time. The Edinburgh club sent one team to Gothenburg but will be pleased with their performance in the Gothia Cup. The 13s overcame German opponents Haltern Am See 3-0 in their opening fixture and followed it up with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Sweden’s IF Vaster. Their perfect record in the group stage continued in the third match when they narrowly defeated Norwegian outfit Stryn 2-1. In the knockout round they beat Sweden’s Norrkoping 1-0 thanks to a goal from Keir Brown but were then eliminated in the next round,
following a 7-1 defeat from England’s Lambeth Tigers.
 
Monifieth Athletic FC
 
The Under 13s were the club’s sole representatives at this year’s Gothia Cup. The Dundonian club faced defeat in each of their 3 group matches against Sweden’s Vasteras SK, Ordin FC from Brazil and Portuguese side Colegio Atlantico. After dropping into the B playoff, Monifieth defeated US team FC Conneticut. When the referee blew for full time the match remained goalless despite the Dundee side’s dominance, then Monifieth won the resulting shootout 4-2 to progress to the next round. They faced Footgeneration FA Algarve from Portugal and were beaten 3-0. The Portuguese side would go on to be the losing side in the cup final.
 
Andrew Mccafferty, coach, said: “I think we improved every game until the last half hour of our final game, when we just ran out of steam. I thought in the game against the Americans we were brilliant, we should have been out of sight by half time. Getting the boys to be brave on the ball like that in a tournament like the Gothia Cup is probably the biggest thing we can take away with us.” 
 
Tynecastle FC
 
Tynecastle sent one team for the Under 13s, 14s, 15s, and 16s and can look back on each of their records with great pride. Every team finished in the top two in their respective groups and recorded a number of impressive victories. The Under 13s overcame German opposition SV Rugenbergen 1-0 in their first knockout match before narrowly losing 3-2 to Prep School Lions from England. The 14s went one better, twice knocking out Swedish opposition with a 3-1 victory over Skoftebyns and a 6-0 thrashing of Tuff. In the next round they faced German side Niensteden and were beaten 3-0.
 
The 15s managed to score 13 goals in the group stage but were knocked out by CEF 18 Tucman from Argentina 4-2 on penalties after drawing 1-1. The 16s won all four of their group stage games, scoring 15 goals in the process. In the first knockout round they drew 1-1 with Portugal’s Almada Foot and lost the resulting penalty shootout 7-6. 
Friday, 28 July 2017 22:51

SPFL Hot Prospects: Kilmarnock

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Who is Scottish football’s next big thing? Who could be the next James McFadden or Andy Robertson? Here at Youth Football Scotland we’re casting our eye over the main SPFL teams to find just who’s on the cusp of breaking out, as the kick off to the 2017-18 league season edges ever closer.
 
Kilmarnock certainly pride themselves on providing a pathway for young footballers to break into the first team. Here is an insight into three of the Ayrshire side’s rising stars.
A product of the club’s youth system, 16-year-old Innes Cameron has bags of potential to make his mark on Scottish football. Fresh from sitting his Higher exams in May, Cameron, from Troon, was one of five academy products to recently sign a two-year modern apprenticeship with Killie. The striker broke onto the scene under the management of Lee Clark, and made his debut as a substitute in a 1-0 defeat to St Johnstone in December 2016. Having impressed for the Under 20s, the 6ft 2’ forward’s determined attitude earned Cameron a place on the bench 17 times, with the now permanent boss Lee McCulloch also showing faith in him. The former Marr College pupil was called up to the Scotland Under 17s to travel to Croatia for the European Championships, where he scored in a 2-0 victory over the Faroe Islands.
Speaking about the forthcoming season, Cameron told YFS: “Hopefully I will continue to be involved with the first team and learn from my experiences to improve the way I play.”
A more familiar name to the fans, Adam Frizzell is one of many other exciting prospects. Frizzell, from Gourock, has been on the scene since making his first appearance for the club in October 2015 against Inverness at Rugby Park. Born in January 22 1998, the 19-year-old is a dynamic, attacking midfielder who likes to get on the ball and pick that killer pass. He has made 19 first team appearances since his debut, and will hope to cement his starting place under McCulloch after impressing for Scotland Under 20s at the Toulon Tournament. Former Killie manager Clark said the one thing the youngster needed to add to his game was goals, and since his re-introduction to McCulloch’s side towards the end of the 16/17 season, he notched his first professional goal in a 3-1 defeat at Fir Park.
In Killie’s three Betfred Cup matches so far, Frizzell has operated in a central midfield position or just behind the striker. His trickery, neat footwork and ability to turn defence into attack has been obvious to see- Frizzell could be set for a terrific season.
Finally, Greg Taylor will play another key role for Killie, having secured his place at left back last season with number of consistent performances. Also from Gourock, Taylor attended Clydeview Academy, and featured in the school's 1-0 win over Mearns Castle High School in 2013 (http://www.youthfootballscotland.co.uk/component/content/article/1719-west-region-club-news/clydeview-academy-news/7121-clydeview-edge-to-paisley-schools-success.html). Taylor started his football career with St Andrews and then played with Frizzell for the Rangers youth set up, but both were snapped up by Killie’s academy following their release. Taylor was thrown in at the deep end by Clark in the Play-off Final versus Falkirk in only his second outing for the club, however the robust full back passed the test with flying colours and has gone from strength to strength.  Always looking to get forward, the pacey left back is an asset when attacking as well as defending. The 19-year-old claimed the fourth best player award at the Toulon Tournament, and scored the winner in a famous 1-0 win over Brazil.
 
It's also worth mentioning Greg Kiltie, who will be hoping to bounce back from a succession of injuries that have halted his progression from one of Killie's brightest prospects in years to a standout player for the Ayrshire side. After a long spell on the sidelines during the season, Kiltie was carted off against Ross County with a broken ankle in the final game of the campaign. The silky attacker, who started his career with Galston Boys Club before jumping between Rangers and Killie at Pro Youth level, was forced to miss the Toulon Tournament with the Scotland Under 20s this summer, but a chance meeting with Chelsea and Belgium star - and fellow crock - Eden Hazard provided a pick-me-up for his recovery. Kiltie told YFS: "I'm getting there, nearly back walking, just taking it day by day." 
Thursday, 27 July 2017 15:25

SPFL Hot Prospects: Hamilton Accies

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Who is Scottish football’s next big thing? Who could be the next James McFadden or Andy Robertson? Here at Youth Football Scotland we’re casting our eye over the main SPFL teams to find just who’s on the cusp of breaking out, as the kick off to the 2017-18 league season edges ever closer.
 
Here we look at two prospects from Hamilton Academical who have shown the early potential to kick on and make the season 2017-18 their year.
 
Hamilton Accies are a side who have used their youth system to great effect in recent history. Success stories like James McCarthy and James MacArthur have moved on to the English Premier League after being given the platform to prove themselves at a young age in South Lanarkshire. In the current team, captain Michael Devlin and playmaker Ali Crawford are a further example of youth products who have made the grade at professional level. 
Steven Boyd has grabbed his chance early on this season after some flashes of brilliance in the BetFred Cup. The 20-year-old came off the bench against Queen of the South on Saturday 22 July with 15 minutes remaining in the match poised at 0-0. With two minutes remaining, the youngster from Paisley scored his first professional goal for Hamilton and it looked as if Accies were claiming all three points before Queens equalised a minute later. Boyd converted his penalty in the shoot out that followed to help earn a bonus point for his side as they won 6-5. Having only amassed four starts for Accies so far, this could be the season where he announces himself on the big stage.
 
Boyd is equally as comfortable playing as an attacking midfielder or as the second striker. He spent the first half of last season on loan to Albion Rovers where he racked up five goals in 15 appearances including a brace against Airdrieonians in a 2-1 victory in the Monklands derby. Boyd was formerly on the books at Celtic and has picked up Scotland caps at Under 17 and Under 16 level.
Scott McMann played the full 90 minutes in Hamilton's last game against Queen of the South in the BetFred cup as well as starting their opening group game against East Kilbride. This proves he is held in high regard by Martin Canning and – although the 21-year-old spent three months on loan at Clyde last year – he is expected to be in the manager's plans at SuperSeal Stadium this season. The defender will look to add to the 29 starts he has already made at Accies since his breakthrough in 2012.
 
McMann's preferred position is at left back where he is renowned for venturing forward to assist the attack but not at the expense of his defensive duties. He has been known to deputise at centre half and may be asked to fill the void while captain Michael Devlin continues his recovery from a cruciate ligament injury in the early stages of the season.
 
Both youth prodigies will hope to make season 2017-18 one to remember for all the right reasons as Hamilton Academical bid to avoid the relegation battle and remain in the Scottish Premiership for a record fifth season in a row.
 
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