Sean Graham reports...
"We changed the name at the beginning of season 2009-2010 and there were probably two or three reasons for that but probably the biggest reason for that was St.Mirren FC themselves."
"We used to be their official boys club, hence the FCBC but with the advent of pro-youth , this means that you can no longer be officially involved with a Scottish professional club. A number of years ago, before the creation of the pro-youth system, the professional clubs had their own boys or youth teams. When the pro-youth set-up came in, they decided there was no need for the 'football club's boys club', so we decided to make a clean break with our own badge and called ourselves St.Mirren Youth Football Club because as you see from the girls outside we are not just a boys club-it has been my aim to have girls football teams also at this club. There are girls dotted throughout this club but what we don’t have is a girl’s team from the age of 12 and up but we are hopeful that at the end of the season that can change.”
“When I joined the club, within a year or two I was the secretary of the whole club and one of the things that was always brought up at meetings was that we have to get the kids in earlier and this club are doing that.”
“I had a vision that the club should be growing and bringing kids in younger because we used to start at Under 13’s but we had to start it from scratch as it is getting harder and harder as some of the kids are already with a team when they are younger, so about seven years ago when I was still running my Under 21’s along with help from Alistair Anderson as no one else wanted to do it.”
“I started an Under 11’s team and Under 10’s which would go Under 12’s and Under 11’s but after a couple of years we decided that this was not working and we would start an extra one and in seven years I have got them down to Mini Kickers and that is between the ages of 5-7 year olds-it just means that we have our Soccer 4’s or our Mini Kickers and it leads to seven a side then eleven a side games, so there is a pathway for every player to go all the way through the club without having to leave it for any reason other than to try somewhere else but there is no reason to go anywhere else as everything is already here for them.”
“We make the kids feel wanted and you see them around the club with their little kits on with smiles on their little faces but it is not just the kids who are happy with the club, the parents know their children are at a well run club which has the SFA Quality Mark.”
Many folk will be wondering what that is?
“Well it is an accreditation that you get from the SFA and in our club we have a guy called Stephen Mann, our Chairman, Coach Development Co-ordinator, Girls Co-ordinator and Head Coach of the Under 13s. He has been a great source in helping us get the Quality Mark, recruiting coaches and preparing them fit for purpose as well as taking on some fund raising for the club - basically giving us a more professional and quality assured backbone whilst not any association with a professional club.””
“It really is what it says, it’s a mark of quality about your club, how much coach education they have done, are they fully disclosed-all ours are and we do encourage them to do the SFA Pathway right through to Early Touches development and levels 1,2,3,4,they can go as far as they want.”
“We only had so many teams at the club maybe seven or eight teams when I first came and now we cover 13 age ranges from 5, 6 and 7 year olds up to Under 21s, within 18 playing squads and it has been a long time coming! From this Spring we'll have an all girl's team competing for the very first time. this is an Under 13s squad they have started really well winning their first three matches of the season, which runs March to November”
“It has been a lot of work but seeing the kids come on and seeing the kids progress all the way through from maybe coming through from when I have started the club, hand them on to other coaches and then you see them maybe three or four games later and they are bigger and stronger players and maybe they are playing for the region or someone like that, it does give you a certain amount of satisfaction.”
“On Grassroots football well I think they are starting to get it right, it has been a long hard slog, as you know in Scottish football there is a lot of different factions, the SPL, the SFA, the SYFA, the Juniors, the Amateurs, the Schools - you name it, the point is we have too many and they all work to different agendas.”
“Over the years there have been a lot of changes, a lot of associations have joined together or work in partnership and it has become more organised.”
“Towards a national structure and just recently the SFA have been trying to get a Player Pathway sorted between certain age groups, you play Soccer 4's then it leads into Soccer 7's and then it leads into a fully fledged eleven a side game with a transition year and it looks as if for the very first time, Hearts next year this is going to happen! ”
“I have been to meetings with Jim Fleeting and David Little, so has Stephen Mann and he heard David Little explain (the SYFA) are going to be adopting the SFA and the SYFA are going to be on the same page, so yes we are getting there but there is still a bit to go.”
“Since I started running my team, I started at under 9's then I went all the way up to under 21's with them,15 or 16 seasons and from that time there has been a lot of changes! “
“We started at 9 year old playing 11 a side football, a few years later we introduced 7 a side football and now you have soccer 4's it is getting better but it is taking a long time. “
“The basic thing that we are crying out for is decent training facilities, indoor and outdoor, there are not enough astrograss parks with lights, and we need more facilities like Toryglen.”
“I have had to split my mini kickers in two-my 2003-04 will be on one night and my 2002's will be another night just because there are so many of them and all I have got is two wee halls, it is not even a games hall, it is two wee halls.”
“I don't know what the answer is? I know that there are only so many facilities to go around and to get a slot in a games hall is like cutting hen's teeth - unless you can access decent indoor facilities for very young footballers, it is very difficult.”
Have things changed since the days of screaming Dad's at the side of the pitch?
“I think development overtakes winning! Winning at a young age is not important, it is coming, playing, doing the right things and enjoying yourself, if you are not enjoying yourself then don't come, go and find something that suits you! ”
“Don't get me wrong, it's nice when you win and kids definately like to win but it is not the be all and end all! I would prefer to see my team going out there playing in the right manner and getting beat narrowly than going out there and hammering a team and they were all over the place, just a big boot up the park.”
“It is a passion game; kids have got to be comfortable on the ball, you see the Europeans and they are all comfortable on the ball, they don't just belt the ball up the park!
You have got to be able to pass it, if you cannot pass a ball then when you get to the age of under 13's 14s then you will get found out. “
“ I would like to think that the philosophy right throughout the club is get the ball down and play football, what I have seen of most of my teams is that’s is the way they like to play, we don’t play route one football! Even if we are in trouble or losing the game, it is best if you can build from the back. In our Under 12’s our goalkeeper cannot launch the ball far, so we work on the ability to pass it out! “
“The criteria we use to recruit coaches to this club is by advertisement, lately we have been advertising but when the Under 21’s players finished, I had nine coaching football teams created for me by developing these young men into coaches, one or two of them have went to university and have moved away from the area, so I have lost a couple but I have still got about 6 or 7 coaching for the club out of a squad of maybe about 18 and that is not bad and some of these boys have been with me for a number of years.”
“We are not just saying cheerio to players when they are finished at 21’s or whatever if they want to come back and help the next set of players then they are more than welcome.
It is something that we looked at very carefully; there is a downside at having younger guys coaching football teams, especially if they are at university and they do have to make it in the big bad world after a certain amount of time, sometimes the jobs are not in Paisley!
If they can find a coaching spot anywhere else then it is no problem, I would recommend them because they are all fully disclosed, they have all done their coaching badges, it was only last season that we lost a team and two coaches because they did not want to be disclosed and they could not be bothered doing their coaching badges and they moved away to another club who allowed them to do that.”
“ I think that kind of thing is bad, it is bad for football and it does leave a club open to scrutiny ,hence the quality mark, we are a quality mark club and it is our business to make sure that everybody within the club is fit for purpose.”
“I think everybody could do with a little more help with equipment, in fact there are a lot more avenues out there if you just go and look for them.”
Awards for All?
“ Some local councils have money put aside for good causes, be it sport or whatever, we have had Awards for All for quite a lot of our teams and Sports Match is another good one, like the local authorities they make money available, it is just a matter for qualifying for it, you just have to put a good case forward for it. “
“ A few years ago we heard that Jenny’s Well was up for grabs after another team had folded and it took me the best part of two years to secure it but we have had it now for a decade and it has been great, the council maintain the park mostly but there comes a time of the year when they stop cutting and recently in the last couple of years we have bought a tractor and some other implements and we do a lot of the work ourselves, a liner, a tractor, a roller, that sort of thing but it all costs money, it doesn’t grow on trees, you don’t get it for nothing, it has got to be bought and paid for and that is maybe something the SFA (Paul McNeill the regional manager, Danny Bisland and Brian McLaughlin) they are trying to get us some portacabins to replace one that we are currently hiring and that costs us £60 a month so if we got a couple of portacabins-they have to be metal containers so that no one can burn them down unfortunately-but we have not really had any luck and they are trying their best that if anything becomes available, we will be first in line to get it, it would be good if you could get something at a decent price but everybody is looking to make money! “