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The Scottish Premiership has a fine recent record when it comes to nurturing talent. The likes of Virgil Van Dijk, Victor Wanyama, Kieran Tierney, and John McGinn have flourished in Scotland's top flight before moving to the English Premier League.
Are there any young up-and-coming talents lurking in Scotland facing into the 2020/21 season? Here we look at four players that might just fit the bill.
Jeremie Frimpong - Celtic (19)
The Netherlands U-20 international was on the books at Manchester City before he hit his 10th birthday and spent the best part of a decade in their youth set-up before signing a four-year deal with the Scottish champions in 2019.
A full-back by trade, Frimpong possesses the trickery to play on the wing and impressed in the early stages of last season. He was sent off in the League Cup final against Rangers, though it didn't stop his Hoops teammates grinding out a 1-0 win at Hampden Park.
With pace to burn and a willing attitude, Frimpong has become a fan-favourite at Celtic and looks set to make further progress in Glasgow with the Hoops firm favourites in the football betting to win a tenth successive league title in 2020/21.
Aaron Hickey - Hearts (18)
Left full-back Hickey featured for a Jambos side were denied in the 2019 Scottish Cup final by Celtic at the tender age of 16 and continued to flourish last season, despite the obvious struggles of the Tynecastle side.
He has an eye for goal and managed to net the winner for his side in an Edinburgh derby at rivals Hibernian last September.
He has made only 24 appearances in a Hearts shirt and, following their relegation, is being touted for a move away. He spent time in Celtic's youth system and the Bhoys are said to be keen on a return, while the likes Chelsea and Bayern Munich have also been following his progress.
With the likes of Andy Robertson and Tierney having proved big hits, Hickey could be the latest in a growing list of talented full-backs to emerge from Scotland.
Lewis Ferguson – Aberdeen (20)
Ferguson is a hard-working midfielder with an eye for goal and he's racking up plenty experience under the tutelage of Derek McInnes since moving to Aberdeen in 2018.
He remains under contract at Pittodrie until 2024 but speculation continues to link Ferguson with a move to Rangers, having slipped through the net at Ibrox in his early teens.
His father Derek and uncle Barry both represented Rangers with distinction and will be pleased to know that the youngster is seemingly on the radar of Light Blues boss Steven Gerrard.
Lewis Smith - Hamilton (20)
Smith could be the latest to come from the Hamilton Accies production line. The New Douglas Park outfit have also produced the likes of James McCarthy and James McArthur to go on to stellar Premier League careers in England and Smith is full of promise having turned 20 back in March.
A winger with plenty of pace and tricks, he's earned praise as an excellent dribbler since making his Scottish Premiership bow in August past.
He's far from the finished product, but there's no doubting Smith could have an X-factor and his physical make-up puts him in the Steven Naismith category.
There are plenty of exciting talents in Scotland's top flight, and big clubs will be keeping an eye out for the next Andy Robertson, Virgil van Dijk or Kieran Tierney. In recent seasons, Scotland has begun to re-establish itself as a breeding ground for up-and-coming talents. Scottish-born youngers, as well as promising would-be stars from around Europe, now know that a leading role in this league can help them push towards the bright lights and big-money of England's Premier League.
A Scottish disability charity has won a €50,000 UEFA award for their work during lockdown.
Team United aim to support young people with disabilities, in particular autism, and have been working hard to provide support for their young people during lockdown as well as continuing to make progress with exciting new projects for when sporting activities do eventually return.
As a result, they have deservedly been recognised by UEFA for their work and have won the UEFA Foundation 2020 Children’s Award and received €50,000.
Ann Brown, Team United director said: “We were nominated by The Scottish FA and I believe this is the first time in over 10 years that they have won through a nomination from a partner.
“We are absolutely delighted, and this will help to increase our work and further develop the pathway for young players with autism.”
In addition the charity have also been offering online coaching, challenges, a super scoreboard score card for the German league, and are also, with special permission from the SFA, able to hold individual one to one sessions with young people who have been more affected by lockdown and the impact of their mental health.
Team United have been involved in many projects of late, and amid the COVID-19 pandemic have been working hard to ensure that they can deliver it as soon as they return which includes their new TEAM LEADERS Project.
Ann continued: “TEAM LEADERS is aimed at young people aged 14-16 years who would like to be more involved in football-related matters off the pitch but also combine their skills and talents in football helping achieve results that will prove invaluable later in life.
“Six young people are currently working on specific areas that will enable us to deliver a successful league launch. We are connecting with them via Zoom on a one to one basis and they then come together monthly to discuss and progress ideas.”
Young players, from the age of six, have been working on this project through their ‘player workbooks’ which focuses on allowing an individual to work on their own whilst looking at activities that enable them to think more about teamwork and the benefits of this. The workbook also covers diet and exercise.
Prior to lockdown, Team United received some funding from ‘Awards for All’ to further develop a new, innovative project called The Generational Game.
Ann explained: “Team United players will develop a dream team of the greatest 11 players and a manager from the 1990 to 2020 period.
“Once selected, the team will appear as part of a special exhibition within the Scottish Football Museum at Hampden Park. Young people have been working during lockdown on the dream team and when back, we hope to join up with the Euro 2021 project team to progress.”
If you would like to find out more about Team United and their work, you can like their Facebook page or go to their website at http://www.team-united.org.uk/.
- Paul Greig (Raith Rovers Community Foundation),
- Declan Fergus (Heart Of Midlothian FC)
Listen to the production below:
With dates all being so close, however, it does give fans something exciting to look toward - whether you’re just there for the football or you’re looking to a little something else as betting sites and non uk casinos here begin to gear up up for a full schedule, there’s a lot to be excited for. The leagues will all be pushing to have the seasons brought to an end as soon as possible to start preparations for the 20/21 seasons - if the Bundesliga is any indication of what to expect, each league could see anywhere between fifteen and twenty games played per week, which could mean up to seventy games per week across all four major leagues. There are still a number of questions to be answered for second league teams such as the Championship within the UK as some are facing financial risk, but these will look to be addressed in the coming months - for now however, football is back in a big way, and there’s a lot to come.
Youth Football Scotland is asking your opinion through social media polls. You can join the debate and cast your vote at the links below:
- Facebook poll.