|The Scottish Football Improvement Association|
Introducing our blogger:
On 18th April 2011 Ben McKenzie, a twelve year old youth player, and his ten year old cousin Matthew, were disappointed by the direction Scottish football was headed in. Rather than watching it unfold, the duo decided to take action themselves, and the Scottish Football Improvement Association (SFIA) was born. In this blog Ben keeps Youth Football Scotland users up to speed with the latest happenings at the SFIA...
Entry 8 | 30th January 2013
My football experience has extended since the last time I spoke to you. Last time I submitted an entry (November) I was just off the back of a holiday in Cyprus which saw me attend two Cypriot football matches. Since then I have visited Tynecastle and Dens Park, I have visited the Emirates Stadium, I have witnessed many games at Pittodrie and a youth football game in England.
I attended 5 professional football matches in the month of December alone. It is my favourite thing to do and it has been nothing but a pleasure to be able to attend so many games. I value every single football match I attend as an experience. I have now seen 74 matches in my life, so the 75th will come on January the 27th at Pittodrie between Aberdeen and Hibernian.
I don't know where to start so I've chosen to start with the youth football match which I attended in England. My cousin Matthew, (SFIA Head of Analysis) was playing. Youth Football is of a fantastic standard here in Scotland and I was impressed by the quality I saw in England. The set up wasn't quite as good but the quality was impressive for it being an U12's match.
Later that day I took my seat at the Emirates. I had no idea that the next two hours of my life, were going to be quite so dramatic. As a Fulham fan, I saw my team go two goals down within the first half, and then I saw them score twice to bring it back to 2-2, also within the same half. I then saw my team take a 3-2 lead, then saw it go 3-3. I then saw a penalty given against my team right at the very end of the game. Arteta
stepped up. Shot to Schwarzer's left. Schwarzer went the right way and saved the penalty – one of the best moments of my life which even brought tears of joy to my eyes. The atmosphere was so much better than the last Arsenal vs Fulham match I went to. Both sets of fans got behind their team. I had probably traveled further than any Fulham fan in the stadium to see the game so to take such a good result meant a lot to me. This game left no doubt in my mind. The English Premier League is absolutely fantastic.
I was also at Tynecastle on the 8th of December and Dens Park on the 29th of December. It was good to visit other grounds in the SPL, which both were fantastic experiences and I hope there are more to come.
On February the 2nd, I will be traveling to Newcastle to go to St James’ Park to see Newcastle vs Chelsea. I look forward to that experience and will let you know how it gets on.
Entry 7 | 14th November 2012
It is a pleasure to finally be back for a fresh start to our YFS Blogs.
Last season was a season of good football quality matched by the title race disappointment.
Unfortunately, Rangers 10-point penalty caused the title race to be decided long before the final weeks of the season. The league so far this season has been absolutely fantastic. I have absolutely loved every minute of SPL football I have seen so far.
Celtic are yet to race clear of the rest of the league and I am not entirely sure they will. We may have a title race on our hands come the end of the season. Celtic's Champions League campaign so far has also delighted me. The win over Barcelona in midweek is more excellent news. My season ticket was of course renewed at Aberdeen FC for the new season.
In October, Matthew and I were in Cyprus, and went to see two football matches. One, a Europa League group stage match between AEL Limassol and Fenerbahçe, and the second a Cypriot top flight match between Apollon Limassol and Doxa.
In the first, AEL who were the underdogs took the came to Fenerbahçe and narrowly lost out 1-0. What also impressed me was the attendance and most of all, the atmosphere. The AEL fans sang for at least 85 minutes of the 90. They were terrific fans and very friendly and welcoming people. It was a fantastic opportunity to compare this to Scottish football, and I must say I didn't expect such an attacking display.
Two days later I visited the fantastic Tsirion Stadium for Apollon Limassol vs Doxa. Doxa, a team near the bottom of the league came looking for a draw, and narrowly were beaten 1-0. In both games play-acting were a big factor which disappointed me but overall, it was a fantastic experience that I'll never forget.
Today I have a big game ahead of me. I travelled to London last night and this morning I will be watching a youth football game in England, followed by going to the Emirates to watch Arsenal vs Fulham, which I look forward to very much.
Entry 7 | 5th June 2012
From the 12 SPL clubs in the season just passed, 80 players have been released. The majority of these players who have been released are still in their 20s and have simply been released to clear up the wage budget. In England, 58 players have been released from Premier League clubs. As there are more Premier Leagues clubs than there are SPL, I have worked out the average.
On average 2.9 players have been released per club in England and in Scotland the average was 6.6 per club. The majority of releases in England are simply down to players reaching their mid-30s and starting to step down to the lower leagues. Because of the wage budget problems in Scotland, clubs have to now heavily rely on the youth systems.
I attended Aberdeen U19's vs Kilmarnock U19's recently. Aberdeen won 3-1 and it was an excellent game with lots of good players on show with a good attitude towards the game.
It was the very same day that I checked the SFA website and saw that from next season an Under-20 league will be formed. I think this is excellent news and overall youth systems are looking good in Scotland and are producing some very good players. In recent weeks I have been involved in improving a local sports centre, going to Perth for a school competition which is requiring a lot of my spare time and I've just finished all my tests at school.
So now I my attention will again be turning to the SFIA every day instead of doing work once or twice which has been the case lately. We hope to see even more progress at the SFIA soon. Matthew has just finished his exams and is now also ready to return his attention to the SFIA. My next blog entry is in 3 weeks and I hope to have progress to tell you about then. Thank you.
Entry 6 | 9th February 2012
Attendances is the main thing I want to improve in Scottish Football. I love big atmospheres and they make a football match such a better place to be. But there is also nothing worse than a quarter full stadium which is dull. That can make a football match a very bad place to be. The only problem with regards to attendances is, that there is not really much we (the SFIA) can do about it. Really it is down to fans being attracted to the football. Really it is more down to the clubs to improve attendances. But at the end of the day, there is only so much a club can do. The main thing is the supporter of the club deciding to purchase a ticket and go to the match. Despite this, we are still desperate to do what we can, and one of my key priorities at the SFIA is to always keep on top of the attendance stats. I have a big folder of all the SPL attendances from the last few seasons and all cup attendances, interesting facts about the attendances etc. As most people will know, last season Hamilton Accies tended to be the team with the worst attendances.
Entry 5 | 12th January 2012
As this is the first blog entry for six odd weeks, I have attended many games since I last entered a blog. Firstly, I went to Aberdeen vs St Mirren at Pittodrie which finished 2-2. Aberdeen were very good and deserved three points. I was also delighted to see the quality continuing. At the games I've been to this season a lot of goals have been scored and the quality has improved immensely from the last few years. The free-kick for St Mirren's equaliser by Carey was absolutely fantastic. The game was very good. Scott Vernon scored 40 seconds in with a superb finish, and some good football from Aberdeen saw Fallon make it two. Some poor defending gifted St Mirren a goal back and then Carey scored his incredible free-kick.
But Stephen Finnie, the referee was really clearly biased. I hate criticising referees, I always try to stand by them and I understand that they all make honest mistakes. But when you can tell it is not an honest mistake and it is consistent biased decisions, that is when I have to criticise the referee. He made so many decisions against Aberdeen. With all due respect to Mr. Finnie I wasn't surprised to see it was only his 4th SPL game that he had refereed this season, and he hasn't refereed in the SPL since that game.
The next game I went to was just seven days later at Pittodrie for Aberdeen vs Hibernian. A terrible game. It didn't nearly meet the standard of the recent games at Pittodrie. It was won by a penalty. Peter Pawlett went down in the box and referee Craig Thomson pointed to the spot. As an Aberdeen fan I'm not going to hide the fact. It was never a penalty. I could see from the stand. I had a decent view of it and I immediately said to my friends, “That was never a penalty,” but as it was, it was given and Vernon scored it and it was the only goal of the game. Craig Thomson was having one of those days. He gave terrible decisions to both teams. Sending off Pawlett for a challenge that wasn't even a foul. I have a lot of respect for Craig Thomson however and he came out after and admitted he made a mistake for both decisions and I really appreciate that. I am delighted that he has got a place as an official in Euro 2012 and I wish him all the best.
I was also at Aberdeen 0-0 Hearts. Not a great game played in extreme conditions as the wind blew everything about. The referee had a good game. He was constantly conned by simulation from the Hearts players but that isn't his fault. I saw so much diving in that game from the away side. I was delighted to attend Dundee United vs Aberdeen at Tannadice for the New Firm New Year derby. It was a great game which Aberdeen won 2-1 thanks to a fantastic goal from Kari Arnason. The refereeing in that game was very good.
So for now at the SFIA, the main focus is definitely the refereeing. We need to find a way to improve it and we will be looking into that for the next few weeks. I will be at Pittodrie on Saturday for Aberdeen vs Kilmarnock which I look forward to. In May there is talk that I might be attending Fulham vs Sunderland at Craven Cottage. I hope this will happen but nothing is confirmed yet and it is still a long time away.
Thank you very much.
Entry 4 | 13th December 2011
On the 26th of November, I was at the Emirates Stadium for the Arsenal vs Fulham game. First of all, I'd like to express how privileged I am to have had this opportunity to go to a Barclays Premier League game, especially at the age of twelve.
I flew down on the Saturday morning and flew back on Sunday night with my older brother. My Cousin Matthew Walsh, head of Football Analysis, lives in Kent, just outside London. We stayed there for the night and me and Matthew picked up a lot from the game.
I said my last blog entry that I didn't think English Football was as good as people say it was. I think that it is not the best league in the world. But there is no hiding from the fact that it is a fantastic league and in a different League altogether from the SPL. But what is the reason me and Matthew chose to make the SFIA? To improve Scottish Football! If the SPL was potentially one of the best leagues in the world would we have made the SFIA? Simply, No. We made the SFIA to improve Scottish Football because we realised what a mess it is in.
Hiding from the fact it is in a mess and saying that it is competing well with other leagues would be absolutely the wrong thing to do. Then we wouldn't see any improvement was needed. That would be a very big mistake, because trust me, there is so much we need to improve in Scottish Football. What is the best league in the world? Well, I'm not going to make any official judgment on that yet. I haven't properly experienced any other leagues than the SPL, Premier League and the Dutch Jupier League (Dutch second division). Some people might say La Liga. Perhaps they are right.
First of all the football (at the Arsenal vs Fulham game). The first half finished 0-0. Arsenal had been the slightly better team but both sides had their chances. Overall nothing special from the first half. However in the Second Half it opened up a little. All of a sudden Arsenal went all over the place and Fulham got chance after chance. Then, roughly fifteen minutes into the second half Vermalean scored an own goal right in front of where we were sitting. As a Fulham fan I was absolutely delighted but I couldn't express that in the Home end!! Arsenal got a late leveler from Vermaelean and overall it turned out to have been an exciting game. The atmosphere was okay but there weren't any proper songs sang. Just chants of 'Come on Arsenal, Come on Arsenal!' and 'We hate Tottenham! Oh we hate Tottenham! Oh we hate Tottenham!' but they never actually sang any proper songs which you hear in the SPL. Overall I enjoyed the experience very much. I will be attending Aberdeen vs St Mirren at Pittodrie on Saturday and I look forward to next blog entry.
Entry 3 | 14th November 2011
Entry 2 | 4th November 2011
I am very pleased to tell you that on November 26th I will be flying to London and attending Arsenal vs Fulham at the Emirates stadium with Matthew Walsh - SFIA's Head of Football Analysis. As I have never attended an English Premier League match, I will be interested to see whether English Football is as good as people say it is, which personally I don't think it is. But being Scottish I accept I might be a little bit biased there!
As a season ticket holder at Pittodrie I was at the Aberdeen vs Rangers game on October the 29th and I was sitting with the Red Ultras, who are a supporter group for Aberdeen FC. An attendance of over 15,000 was very impressive considering that earlier in the season Aberdeen's home fixture against Celtic was a 12,000 attendance. The atmosphere was incredible from the supporters especially the home fans. Up until the Rangers goal the away end was silent, but once Lafferty had scored, they began to sing and made some noise. But throughout the whole game the home supporters were surprisingly out singing the Rangers supporters.
Overall it was a great game! It had everything! Goals, red cards, penalties, goalkeeper blunder, good attendance and a good atmosphere. But even Ally McCoist himself very honestly admitted and great credit to him for doing so that the referee was unfair towards Aberdeen. Personally I felt he had no control and didn't see many key incidents so based his decision on a pure guess. He really was the only negative from the game in my opinion. My uncle in England text me during the game whilst watching it on ESPN and he said that the Scottish referees are embarrassing to watch and I couldn't agree more. It needs to improve. Personally, how did they justify a pay rise in July? What's your views on the scottish referees? E-mail us now! We need and want your views!
I look forward to hearing from you and remember you can access any of the documents we have made by requesting them by e-mailing us. So we are continuing to focus on referees and attendances and by the time of my next blog entry I hope to have a report on attendances so far this season for you, and maybe even a report on the refereeing.
Entry 1 | 14th October 2011
This is my first blog entry on this website. I was absolutely delighted when I offered this blog by Youth Football Scotland. First of all I'll tell you about myself, and then about my association to improve Scottish Football.
So my name is Ben Mackenzie, I'm a twelve year old and I turned twelve, four days ago. I live in Aberdeen and of course, support them. I play for Culter Youth Football Club at Under 13's level and I help to coach a group of young six year-old aspiring footballers.
I set up the Scottish Football Improvement Association on the 18th of April 2011 and I set it up with my cousin Matthew. I am president of the SFIA, Matthew was vice-president but is now Head of Football Analysis, and Cameron and Calum are assistant football analysers. My aim is to improve Scottish Football and I have a strong passion to do so.
The SFIA's introductory video
I am a season ticket holder at Aberdeen Football Club. Regarding improving the pitches I have received replies from the following Football clubs- Cowdenbeath, Stirling Albion, Ross County, Berwick Rangers, St Mirren, St Johnstone, Motherwell, Inverness CT and many others.
I know this isn't going to happen overnight and there is still so much work to do. But we CAN do it. With a team effort. From the football FANS. The true fans. The fans who are proud of their club, their country, I'm talking about the true Scottish Football Fans.
Thanks for reading.