East Region (298)
Following the successful launch of the Forth Valley Academy last year, Fife is now home to another such project; the Fife Elite Football Academy.
Led by Stephen Wright, FEFA is an amalgamation of youth academies from Dunfermline, Raith Rovers, East Fife and Cowdenbeath. Working alongside Stephen is Bill Hendry, former head of youth development at Hibernian where he was influential in developing the likes of future Scotland internationals Scott Brown, Steven Fletcher and Steven Whittaker. With a wealth of experience in coaching young footballers at their disposal, FEFA now hopes to recruit, educate and develop the next generation of talent in the Fife area.
Now in in its second season, FEFA has sides ranging from Under 11’s all the way to Under 17’s, and compete in the Elite Games Programme run by Club Academy Scotland against other academies from the likes of Celtic, Rangers, Dundee United, Aberdeen, Hibs and Hearts. As well as other SPFL academies from across Scotland.
With a healthy amount of last year’s graduates being rewarded with professional contracts by one of the four senior clubs in Fife, Stephen is now hoping to work alongside the region's youth football clubs to help retain the area’s best players: 'Rather than having players and parents travelling all over Scotland, hopefully with us on their doorstep we can get these players into the Fife clubs first teams, and then hopefully maybe beyond that in years to come’.
As well as helping with player development, FEFA also offer to help to local coaches by visiting clubs and inviting others to attend open training sessions: ‘People can come in and have trials, we also go out and meet the boys clubs and have coaches and players come into our training as well to try and help them along the way…we try to put a good service on for everyone in Fife’.
Despite the fantastic work already being done, Stephen is also looking towards the long term benefits of youth development for the region: ‘People have to recognise this is a long term view to youth development, we tell people not to look at the short term developments on the pitch. We are trying to develop football players and that can take years, you have to be patient and keep working away and hopefully this will benefit everyone in Fife’.
Although still in its infancy, the combined strength of four professional clubs certainly has the potential to benefit the region for years to come. And with the next generation of Scotland’s star footballers currently learning the ropes in parks and pitches all over the country, it is good to know that with the help of Stephen, Bill and the rest of the FEFA staff, Fife is not going to be left behind in the race to discover them.
Dundee West took on Douglas Lads in a frantic first ever competitive 11-a-side match at Charlotte Street on 25 August, producing a remarkable comeback to salvage a 5-5 draw from the game after finding themselves 5-2 down at the interval.
Although The West had a couple of chances the start of the game, slack marking at the back gave their opponents opportunities to score. Douglas started as the better and also more clinical side and after eight minutes already found themselves two goals ahead.
However, Dundee began to settle into the game and Declan Hume scored his first of the game in the 13th minute to make it 2-1 after a good through ball left him one-on-one with the Douglas keeper.
Only a minute later, a misplaced pass then allowed Douglas to restore their two goal lead.
Dundee, however, grit their teeth and pulled one back through a fine Ryley Duncan strike from the edge of the box that found the top corner in the 23rd minute.
A penalty and an own goal extended Douglas’ lead to three at half time, adding to Dundee’s misery and giving them a mountain to climb in the second half.
Half Time: Dundee West 2-5 Douglas Lads
Dundee West came out fighting for the second half, scoring three minutes after the interval when Declan Hume scored his second of the game, once again finishing well after finding himself one-on-one with the goalkeeper.
Galvanised by this, Dundee pushed on, but the Douglas defence held out until midway through the half until Declan Hume once again stepped up to the task by completing his hat trick by prodding the ball past the Douglas keeper once again.
With time almost running out, Dundee gave away a needless foul on the edge of our box. From the free kick, the ball was crossed into the box and met by a powerful header that was going in just under the crossbar. Yet Dundee West goalkeeper David Boylan somehow prevented a certain goal as he pulled off a magnificent save to push the ball off the bar, allowing the defence to clear the rebound.
It turned out to be a vital stop, as shortly after Declan Hume completed the comeback by grabbing the equaliser in the last minute of the game, dispatching a fine finish from yet another one-on-one with the keeper.
In the last few seconds of the game, Hume was then denied an opportunity to win the match by an offside call.
With two tough games coming up, Dundee West now know they cannot give teams a head start. While they showed great character to turn the game around, they will be well aware that their first-half performance and individual mistakes cost them the three points on the night. They will realise that they should try to come out of the blocks strongly and keep their concentration for the full 70 minutes. Nevertheless, feats of such will and togetherness are what make our beautiful game so special.
The turning point of this match was David Boylan’s save to prevent a certain goal. He produced a truly magic moment to keep the team’s momentum going, allowing them to get a vital equaliser.
The man of the match award goes to Declan Hume for his four-goal tally. Declan worked hard, finished beautifully and on another day might have added to his total.
Full Time: Dundee West 5-5 Douglas Lads
Progress follows Dryburgh Athletic in all that they are doing. They are developing off the pitch as a Community Club and it is looking rosy for both the boys and girls sections of the club on the pitch too.
"We’ve improved since last season," Taylor Scott, Dryburgh Athletic Girls 15s captain, told Youth Football Scotland. "We’ve been doing good and we’re near the top of the league so hopefully we can keep up the good work.
"I think we could win the league but we just need to put in more effort and try harder."
Her manager John Beatt is in agreement that they could be celebrating a league win at the end of the season.
"The girls in my squad at under-15s, they really want to win," he said. "That squad in particular have had a very good season, we’re sitting third in the league and they’re looking to try and win the league."
Whilst winning the league would definitely be an added bonus, for Beatt it is not the main aim.
"It’s not all about that for us. It’s about an improvement in their overall ability across the season," he said.
"The aims are too encourage more players to take part in football," secretary of the boys section Ronnie McCabe said.
"Some of the managers still focus on winning games but that’s not the be all and end all of things. It’s about getting kids involved, again, keeping them off the streets, giving them training, giving them things to do during the week and just getting them involved in sports."
This is a target they are certainly meeting, with Scott telling us her team "had a couple new players in."
She also told us how she would persuade someone to join her team: "I would just tell them about the club - they’re really helpful. Like if you haven’t started playing football they would help you do that, and they would help you make friends too."
Beatt had a clear idea of how he thought the girls felt about their affiliation to the club.
"I think they love it," he said. "Forming part of the community club and joining with the boys section has been a great thing for the girls. The boys section has been around since, I think it’s 1970, so they’re a well-run club, well-organised club, and the girls have really enjoyed becoming part of that.
"They seem quite proud of the name, they all wear their tops with pride."
All the signs are very encouraging for this thriving football club from Dundee.
Good luck to Dryburgh Athletic over the course of the season!
On arrival at Lochee Park, it was apparent that Dryburgh Athletic FC are doing many great things within their community. With girls of all ages training on the pitch, Youth Football Scotland caught up with coaches from coaches from both the girls and boys section
Both secretary and chairman of Dryburgh Athletic, John Beatt and Ronnie McCabe, were quick to compliment the Quality Mark award scheme that has seen their side become a more attractive team to outsiders and improve the togetherness of the community.
"I think what Quality Mark has done and [what] community clubs have done is bring together kids in certain areas,” said McCabe.
"Going back, kids would jump from team to team. But now we tend to find that a lot of kids come from the same schools. They grow up together, they go from school to club lengths, ‘Fun 4’s’ and stuff, so by the time they’ve grown it’s all their friends that are in the same team as them, they’re from the same area."
This does not just have an impact on the pitch, but away from it too. "It builds that community spirit within them, and I think that’s the main thing for Dryburgh. It lets them come together in an area with a common goal," said McCabe.
The safety of the kids is of paramount importance, and McCabe was also keen to stress that the Quality Mark would appeal to mothers, fathers, and guardians: “It lets the parents and any sponsors see that we’re certified, that we take things seriously, and that all the staff that we have, all the coaches, first aiders, are all certified, they’re all disclosure checked."
This confidence in the club is reflected in the coaching quality, which has been helped by Athletic’s status as a ‘Community Club’. The girls section, run by Beatt, has recently joined together with the boys section, and Beatt complimented the Scottish FA’s support in this task: “Joining together with the boys section, it opens up a lot of doors for ourselves. The people at the Scottish FA East office have been fantastic with us, they’ve given us a lot of help in setting up the community club."
In turn, the club has seen benefits rewarded to them. "It’s opened up a few doors for us in that the coaches, myself, and a coach from the boys section, have taken part in the McDonald’s Scottish FA Coach Mentor process, which is something that has come along with the community club," Beatt said.
This was a programme that Beatt heaped praise on: "[It’s] been fantastic. It’s given us as coaches an opportunity to work with Craig Ferret from the SFA, whose knowledge is brilliant. He’s been fantastic and he’s helping us put together a ‘Coaches Philosophy’, which we’re hoping to run across the board with all the coaches at the club."
One thing is not in doubt for Pitreavie Puma 2002s this season - they will continue to learn after a strong showing last time around.
Last season was mainly a good one for the Pumas, with some memorable wins over their rivals muddled with a loss of form that affected their league position.
"Last season overall, looking back was very good for us," coach and club secretary John Battrick told Youth Football Scotland.
"We had some really great performances but as with most teams we had a little sticky patch where our performance level dropped.
"However, as coaches we kept the lads heads up and eventually we played through that and towards the end of the season our performance level picked up again and we started playing to how we know that the team can play."
Their bounce-back ability is encouraging for the side as they go into their first 11-a-side season. Other signs of note were their performance against big rivals and when forced to field a weakened side.
It was the matches against their rivals that really raised the bar for the Pumas last season.
"[The highlight was] playing one of our main rivals through at their patch, who were unbeaten up to that point, and beating them 3-1. Another was travelling away from home again, this time with a depleted squad due to injuries/illness and drawing 5-5 with another of our main rivals, which felt like a win," Battrick said.
Another sign of progression this season would be the side’s performance in the Armadale Falcons 11-a-side tournament. "We played some great football and in the final completely outplayed the opposition but unfortunately got beaten 1-0 from a break away by the other team," Battrick told us. “Everyone involved with the team was so proud that day of the achievement in our first 11’s tournament."
Battrick was keen not to target a particular position in the league, stating he just wanted them to do “as best as possible.” He told us, “Our plan is to have more structured training sessions focussing on the points that need addressing with individuals; some players have the same weaknesses as others, building up confidence in these areas whilst also making sure that the team continue to work together and for each other.”
Battrick hopes this approach will help gear the boys up for a good season in their development league and potentially a cup run, as well as performing well in the big games against their rivals.
“Beveridge Lions Reds, Real Fife, Blue Brazil, AM Soccer, Inverkeithing Hillfield Swifts, Lochgelly Albert,” were some of the names Battrick reeled off when asked about rivals. It would seem that the Puma’s consider nearly every team in the league as fierce opposition, which some would not consider a bad thing. It shows a willing to perform well, and plays into the hands of the ‘every game is a big game’ mentality.
The team will start preparing for their biggest season yet on the 27th July, with their first pre-season tournament on the 1st August at AMsoccer. Battrick added, “This is our first 11-a-side tournament at AMsoccer but at the 7-a-side tournament we did really well and actually got the fair play trophy also when we last took part so we are really looking forward to it this year.”
Battrick sounds confident of the season ahead, and that is reflected in his opinion on the squad, of which they will add no new signings. “We have a really talented bunch of lads and we are looking to concentrate on further developing them rather than add to them,” he said. “One thing last year was actually keeping hold of one of our younger lads who is really promising, he is a year younger so was thinking of dropping back a year but in the end to our delight he decided to stay with us,” he added.
Good luck to the Pitreavie Pumas over the course of the 2015/16 season!
"The Quality Mark has made a huge difference to the club over the last seven or eight years," said Peter Ryder. He is the secretary of Ferry Athletic Youth Club, and yet another voice adding to the opinion of many, that the Quality Mark award scheme is having a significant impact on youth football.
Ferry Athletic started off with just two teams back in 1997, but the club has "grown into one of the largest clubs within the Dundee and Tayside area."
"We’re now up to nine teams between the under-nines age group and the under-19s age group," he told Youth Football Scotland. "We also have three ‘4 v. 4’ age groups as well. At present we currently have over 200 players at the club and 30 coaches, so it’s grown into quite a monster over the last five years."
A monster in size maybe, but certainly not in ego. "The whole ethos of the club is to get as many people playing football as we possibly can," Ryder said. "[The] aim of the club, first of all, is to make sure every player that comes to Ferry Athletic enjoys playing the game, and it’s an environment where they can learn and hopefully we can go onto win things this season."
The positive attitude that the club has off the pitch was certainly carried onto it last season, with various teams returning with trophies. That is not the be all and end all for Ferry Athletic though.
"It’s all about making sure it’s a good environment for people to learn, and then hopefully we’ll win things on the back of that," Ryder said.
Now, the club is progressing with the Quality Mark as well. Ryder said: "We’ve now got the Legacy Quality Mark, which is fantastic. It means that kids that come to the club are getting quality coaching, [that] the coaches are all qualified, they’ve got their Stage 1, 2, and 3 qualifications. It means better training sessions for kids which will enable them to play football at a higher standard."
It is not just the nationwide Scottish FA campaign that Athletic are finding useful though.
"The local guys in the Scottish FA, have supported the club really well," Ryder said. "They’re there for you when you need help, when you need assistance. They’re good at running training courses etc. so the relationship we have with the SFA is overall, very strong."
Good luck to Ferry Athletic for the forthcoming season!