Features & Blogs (117)
Kim Little will go down as one of Scotland’s best ever footballers.
The Arsenal captain’s honours list includes three FA Women’s Super League titles, BBC and FA Player of the Year Awards, NWSL MVP and Golden Boot awards, as well as many other prizes over an 11 year playing career.
She also has 137 caps for Scotland (at time of writing), making her Scotland’s fourth most capped player.
Recently, she sat down (over Skype) with James McLeay for the Beyond Canal Park podcast – available on Apple, Spotify, Google and Anchor. In these podcasts, James meets with sporting characters from the North and discusses their career, with guests such as Colin Hendry and Stewart McKimmie.
Kim was born in Mintlaw, Aberdeenshire, in 1990. She admitted that sport played a part in her life from an early age: “As a family - my mum dad, brother and sister - we were always so sporty and so active. Our mum and dad were always giving us opportunities to do loads of different sports. I did athletics, cross country, badminton, all those things.
“I played with Mintlaw Boys Club until I was 12 or 13, maybe even a little bit older, and with the Mintlaw Academy school team as well. I started playing for Buchan Girls when I was 10 in 2000… but I played with boys and continued to for as long as I was allowed to.
“There was lots of selfless parents and teachers who gave a lot of their free time. Obviously, my parents were a big influence, our coaches at Buchan… Euan Reid [who gave the grinning child the nickname ‘Smiler’], I played with his daughter Leanne – she was one of my best friends at school and we used to play football all the time. Her brothers were all involved.
“From our school teams as well – our PE teachers, Mr Robertson, Mr Mair at Mintlaw Academy, were always investing their time. There was so many I could name that gave up their time for us and gave us the opportunity to play football, for both the boys team and the girls team. A lot of my friends played football at school, so it was a social thing, but we did very well as a school team too.”
Kim developed her taste for silverware from an early age, as her team were the only to win the Junior and Senior Scottish Cups for their age group.
“We used to play the North East Cup and then the Scottish Cup. I don’t know how many times we won it in a row, but we had such a good team that played for Buchan and played for the school team as well, and we did well pretty consistently.”
The youngster garnered a reputation for giving referees a mouthful, as well as enjoying a singsong on the bus, but more importantly she was starting to get noticed by scouts.
“I did a few different tournaments where we went down to north of England. We played Man United Girls and Everton Girls, and went into their training grounds. To be honest, I wouldn’t say I thought I was going to have a career in football until very late on in my teenage years. It’s not something I thought I would make a living from.”
“I started to represent Scotland at under-15 level, and we used to travel down the central belt to go to trials for schoolgirls. That opened doors because different people are seeing you play and more teams are down in Edinburgh and Glasgow.”
Kim signed for the Hibs’ youth team in 2004 and was promoted to the senior team by 2006, aged just 16. She used to make the seven-hour round trip to Edinburgh from Aberdeen every week for training and for game days.
“I remember my mum was going to take me down for the first day to Hibs. I was like ‘I’m not sure I want to go’ – it was that [fear] of a new thing, but my teammates with the national teams played and asked if I wanted to go down.
“It’s a pretty long journey, but when you’re a kid you don’t even recognise that but now I’m not sure I’d be able to do it! We used to go down to Dalkeith, the other side of Edinburgh.
“From the age of 15 or 16 we would travel down one day a week to train, and then a Sunday to play the game. I would train and do other bits up at home. I had to miss Wednesday maths and English single periods – gutted!”
In her first season with the Hibees she scored 55 goals in 30 games followed by 33 in 18. These performances showed plenty of other teams what a talent the small Scot had, and she soon attracted even bigger attention – despite still sitting exams at Mintlaw Academy.
“I juggled both [school and football] pretty well. Whatever I put my mind to I make sure I give as much as I can to that. I wouldn’t say I was the most academic but I definitely worked hard to get my Highers. That came from my parents, emphasising the importance of that side of things.”
In 2008, Little joined Arsenal, where her form continued to show on the pitch. Kim flourished in her five years at the Gunners and, in her second season, Arsenal won the treble and she was crowned Player of the Year, finishing as the league's top scorer having scored 47 goals in the entire season.
Kim has to be classed as an idol to young girls wanting to play football at the highest level, and one of the key figures in giving the sport the representation it deserves across the country.
To find out more about the Scot’s glistening career across the UK, America and Australia be sure to check out the Beyond Canal Park podcast where she spoke about her career and names her All-Time XI of players she’s played with.
It is available at the following places:
You may have heard the name Lewis Neilson in recent weeks, after the youngster started Dundee United’s opening game of the season against St Johnstone, but not much else is known about the defender. Ross Wardrop reports.
Lewis was born on the 15th May 2003 in Dundee and, interestingly, grew up next door to former a United player who now plays in the Premier League with Southampton - Stuart Armstrong. It’s therefore unsurprising that Neilson has commented that Armstrong was his motivation as he grew up aspiring to become a professional footballer!
The defender started at DUSC 1984 before joining United at the age of 10, and signed a contract extension at Dundee United, just before the country went into lockdown (on the same day he was called up to the Scotland U17s squad), that will keep him at the club until the end of the 21/22 season.
Away from Dundee, the United academy graduate, who recently changed positions from central midfield, played three games between the U16s & U17s national squads. With two senior appearances for United (at time of writing), it wouldn’t be surprising to see him add to his national caps under head coach Brian McLaughlin.
Andy Goldie, academy director at Tannadice, told YFS exclusively: "Lewis’ transition to full-time football has been nothing short of outstanding.
"In the space of a year he has been training with the first team squad, learning a new position having previously played in midfield, achieved four Higher As and now has two competitive appearances under his belt at 17 years old.
"His progress is testament to his work ethic, sacrifice and commitment to his development both on and off the pitch and highlights the opportunity young players have to develop as people and footballers at Dundee United Football Club."
Lewis' mental attributes have clearly sped up his involvement with the first team - but Andy believes the youngster also has the physical and technical skills required for Premiership level.
"He is a modern day central defender who loves to initiate attacks by stepping into midfield or utilising his passing ability to penetrate, but has also made great progress in his defensive performance working under the mentorship of Mark Reynolds and Mark Connolly.
"He has a taste for First Team Football now and the manager has shown that age is merely a number so there is no limit on what he can achieve here either short or long term if he continue to build on his success so far."
As Andy mentioned, Lewis was one of a number of United players who received their Higher qualifications recently, with the 17-year-old achieving As in English, Business and PE, as well as a B in Maths - which could improve with a successful appeal, to give the former St John’s RC High pupil top marks across the board.
After making his debut against St. Johnstone in the opening game of the Scottish
Premiership season, Lewis said in an interview with DUTV: “It’s excellent to finally get my debut in the way I did, starting in the first game in the Premiership, it’s a great feeling. The exciting part for me is that the gaffer has faith in young players and is willing to give them a chance.”
He also mentioned that he didn’t expect to make his debut after the Tangerines got promoted to the Premiership, and potentially expected to go out on loan before making it but thanked new manager, Micky Mellon, for giving him a chance.
It is also clear that the new gaffer is keen to give Lewis and other academy graduates a chance in the first team - not only playing them in cup games but potentially giving them an opportunity to play in league games.
In his post-match interview, Mellon said: “When the opportunity comes, and I believe it’s the right time, I will put any of them [youngsters] in… We will speak to Lewis next week and say about the areas he has to improve in to keep moving himself forward to be the footballer that we all believe he can be.”
For Neilson, working under a manager like Mellon should suit him and his playing style
massively as he looks to grow as a player and progress further in his footballing career.
Newly promoted Dundee United look to be an exciting side this Premiership season, captained by experienced defender Mark Reynolds, with power up top in Lawrence Shankland and Nicky Clark.
With four points from three games so far, United will be looking to build on an encouraging start. Add to that the inclusion of youngsters and academy graduates Louis Appere, Logan Chalmers, Kieran Freeman, Declan Glass, Chris Mochrie, and Jamie Robson (easy to forget he’s still just 22) and it’s clear to see it’s a good time to be a United fan.
In a new series of articles, YFS will be taking a closer look at some of the bright young talents coming out of the SPFL this season. Hot Prospect #1 is a defender who has already crossed Edinburgh's biggest divide after being released by one of the countries biggest academies. Owen McCarrey finds out more.
Hibernian defender Josh Doig is being tipped as a player for the future after the 18-year-old made his full competitive debut on the opening weekend of the SPFL season in a 2-1 Kilmarnock.
The debutants performance was highly praised by Hibs boss Jack Ross, who described Doig’s performance as “brilliant”.
In recent years Scottish football clubs have been known for producing a high calibre of youth players from their respective youth academies, from Andrew Robertson of Queens Park, to Kieran Tierney of Celtic, and Billy Gilmour from Rangers, to name a few.
Doig signed for Hibernian in the summer of 2019, having previously played for Edinburgh rivals Heart of Midlothian where he featured in their youth academy system. Initially kept on for an extra season in John Rankin's under-18s - where he would have played alongside Aaron Hickey and co - he was released at the end of the 2018-19 season.
In September 2019, the youngster was selected as part of the Scotland U18s squad and appeared in a 2-1 win over Paraguay for the Scots.
Doig’s impressive performances in training and games, as well as a stunning growth spurt, were then rewarded in February 2020, as the defender signed a new contract with the club keeping him there until the summer of 2023.
Shortly after putting pen to paper on his new deal, Doig was loaned out to Scottish League Two side Queens Park – who also produced Scotland left-back Barry Douglas - for the remainder of the season in order to gain the experience needed of playing regular first-team football.
During his short spells at the Spiders, Queens Park boss Ray McKinnon compared Doig’s style of play similar to that of Liverpool left-back and former Queens player, Andy Robertson.
“He was up and down, he was brilliant, and everybody was making comparisons with Andy Robertson”, McKinnon said, when speaking to Edinburgh Evening Newspaper in July.
After returning from Queens Park, Doig had a number of impressive moments in Hibs’ pre-season fixtures, most notably a scoring stunning volley against Scottish champions, Celtic at Parkhead.
He was then awarded his competitive debut for Hibs in the centre of defence in a 2-1 win over Kilmarnock on August 1st, leaving experienced Hibees defender Lewis Stevenson on the substitute bench.
Now, gaffer Jack Ross has called on Josh Doig to “seize his opportunity” ahead of Hibs upcoming league fixtures. They face Livingston on Saturday before travelling to Dundee United through the week, where Doig could come up against another promising youngster – Lewis Neilson.
Crawford Allan’s refereeing career started thanks to an unlikely source, he revealed in an interview with YFS reporter Angus Blacklock.
Allan, who retired his whistle in 2018 after 300 professional matches, has moved a role at the SFA where he is the Head of Referee Operations. Speaking to the AngusJB YouTube channel, he spoke about how he got into refereeing, the process and how long it took him, his worst decision, and the best advice he’s ever been given.
“I was helping out with a local boys brigade company and they had a league and they had struggled to get referees, so I just put on the tracksuit top and I would ref the games,” the former top flight ref said.
“I was prompted to do the course by a friend and I had no intentions of making a career out of it. All in all, it took me 11 years to referee a professional game. You can do it a little bit quicker now!”
However, he didn’t start off as the man in the middle.
“My first memory of playing football was school football probably P5 and P6 and then onto a bit of youth football. There was a local youth team near me so I played for them in high school, but I then found the lure of a paper round and money took me away from the youth side and I only played at school level.”
”I played right wing in primary school and then I became an overlapping full back until the legs gave in! But I played in every position.”
He was also keen to give advice to any young referees who are just starting out behind the whistle. “There’s a little phrase we use in the refereeing world.
“Control the Controllable.
“By that we mean, if you turn up at a game unfit - it's your own fault. Whereas if something happens on the pitch, it’s out of your control, so we always try and control all the things that are controllable.”
It’s easier said than done, he admitted. Reflecting on his worst decision, he looked many years down memory lane.
“There was one where I refereed a school game and I gave offside. He was clearly offside - about ten metres!
“After I gave it the attacker asked ‘what about him?’ And for some unknown reason, the defender had stopped to talk to the keeper. I had to stop the game and admit that I made a mistake!”
You can go check out the full interview on the AngusJB YouTube channel by clicking here.
The path to the top is often full of twists and turns, and no one knows that better than current Clyde midfielder and Hearts youth coach John Rankin.
The 36-year-old ex-Dundee United captain currently juggles playing for the League One outfit alongside coaching the Jambos’ under-18s, as well as assisting with the reserves.
His role at both clubs sees him dishing out advice to youngsters – albeit with slightly more responsibility at Riccarton.
“I don’t see it any different from when I was a player anywhere else,” he said of his squad status at Broadwood. “Obviously, I’m a bit more experienced here than what I was in previous years. It’s a young squad and I take that responsibility quite easily, there are a lot of arising young players.
“When out on the pitch, I help the manager out and I might move boys here and there, maybe a wee five or ten yards. I always try and help them, but as I said it’s not any different from where I’ve been in the past few years and I’ve been a captain over the past 7-8 years at various clubs and I don’t see it any different here. Although I may not be club captain, I still do my bit.”
It is not the end to the season that Rankin would have wanted. Having returned from two ankle operations – having broken it during the final game of last season – ‘Ranks’ came back to make seven appearances and even score.
His never-say-die attitude is sure to be rubbing off on his young apprentices at the Oriam – and it’s something that the Bellshill-born midfielder had to pick up early in his career.
He joined Manchester United as a teen, during the height of their triumphs, but soon found himself living in the real heart of world football – Brazil.
“Being 16 and signing for the European Champions, I mean that’s a massive, massive thing, being at Manchester United at that age.
“I was there when I was 16, I left my family and was away for four years and I enjoyed my time there. It was more the experience, than anything else, and as I said earlier, to have that opportunity to sign for the European Champions, is something that I’d probably kick myself if I hadn’t done.
“The big highlight was being captain of the under-15’s, under-17’s and reserves before I left, which we won the reserve league in 2001-2002, which was massive at that time.”
During his time with the Red Devils, Rankin, alongside fellow youth player Ben Muirhead, were sent to Brazil, by Sir Alex Ferguson on loan to Corinthians. However, it wasn’t all pannas in paradise.
“I didn’t really enjoy being over there as such, didn’t really take to the culture and being the only person who spoke English, which was really difficult for a young boy from Scotland, who only took French as a modern language.
“It was poverty-stricken as well, there were four-to-five-year-old kids flinging sweeties over wing-mirrors and begging, pretty much to make their mums and dads live, basically.
“It was very difficult to watch. The experience was good, but not one I’d say I liked best. Being a 16-17-year-old going over there, seeing what I saw, it was hard.”
He was released in 2003 and after a few trials, went north to Dingwall to sign for Ross County.
“Becoming a pro at Ross County and playing a game, it means something on a Saturday, when you’re playing for the three points and playing in the Scottish Cup and League Cup final and even though we lost both games, it’s a massive highlight.
“A particular moment I enjoyed in my career to date was the semi-final at Ibrox, when I was captain of Dundee United and the Scottish Cup Final.”
Now, Rankin is in charge of the under-18 side at Tynecastle - a big change from his days on the green side of Edinburgh. He is assisted by Donald Park, former Scotland under-19 manager and well-known face on the youth circuit.
As well as that, Rankin assisted Andy Kirk as the Jambos' reserve side won the Reserve Cup in the 18-19 season.
Adam Binnie is a journalism student at Strathclyde University and a recent graduate of the YFS Sports Journalism and Media programme. Below, he tells us why summer football is the way forward for youth age groups.
The Coronavirus pandemic has had a variety of implications on professional football in Scotland that have stirred up debates of league reconstruction, potential corruption and the distribution of league titles. Beyond the battle-lines of club statement warfare, grassroots football could be facing its own reformation for the 2020/21 season.
On the April 21, the Scottish Youth Football Association announced in an email sent to all member clubs that the 2019/20 season would be abandoned and that no further league fixtures should be played. However, their email addressed a specific issue that has lingered in the air of grassroots and professional Scottish football for many years: summer football.
The SYFA stated: “We also want to take this opportunity to raise the matter of summer football. Some of you will be aware of the petition regarding switching our 11-a-side age groups from a winter season to a summer season. In addition to this petition we have also received three emails from club officials supporting this change.”
It is evident that there is a healthy appetite for summer football in Scotland, both at grassroots and professional level. Craig Burness, a coach at Bervie Caley in the Aberdeen & District Juvenile FA, lodged a petition last month to convey grassroots football’s support for a summer season for juvenile age groups. His petition has received 769 signatures thus far and the SYFA have confirmed they are considering the proposals brought forward by Mr Burness.
On the back of Burness’s petition, Youth Football Scotland conducted polls on social media platforms to survey desire for a revamped grassroots football calendar. 81% of 3,600 participants were in favour of the switch to a summer season on Facebook and 76.5% of participants on Twitter also supported the change.
The introduction of a summer football season (March-November) offers a host of financial, logistical, and sporting advantages.
Firstly, this will simply increase the volume and frequency of football that is played. The current August-May season is a victim of Scotland’s harsh winters, subsequently severely limiting the amount of football played, particularly between the months of November and February.
I have been playing at grassroots level for over a decade now and every winter is the same. There is nothing worse than waking up to the dreaded text on a Saturday morning that notifies you the game is off. Unless, of course, the postponement is announced by the match referee during the warm-up!
In my league alone, 40 games were cancelled, postponed, or abandoned between the months of November and February. Of the ten sides in the league, six were unable to complete more than half of their scheduled fixtures between this period, with my side managing just nine league games in 31 weeks.
On February 15 of this year, Rangers had their Ladbrokes Premiership tie with Livingston postponed as a result of adverse weather conditions. Ibrox Stadium is a UEFA ‘5-star’ elite stadium, one of just 27 with such a prestigious accreditation in Europe. If weather is too large an obstacle for a UEFA ‘5-star’ elite stadium, then what chance do our dog-littered public parks stand?
The March-November season model is already being used in Scottish Women's Football, Club Academy Scotland and Scottish Youth FA age groups at under-12 level and below. Surely, if the SFA deem the summer season as the most viable option to develop our young players at academies, the SYFA should adopt the same approach for developing grassroots players.
The CAS games programme allows for a 33-week league calendar with each team playing 32 games. This is 10 more than the average number played at grassroots level in the Central Region, despite a longer matchday calendar of 44 weeks.
In addition, it is important to recognise that a summer football season would not only be more practical and allow for more football to be played, but it could also save grassroots sides money.
The winter season weather forces clubs to hire artificial pitches in order to keep games on, not to mention the costly hiring of indoor or floodlit training surfaces through the week. With the average rent of an 11-a-side artificial surface exceeding £100 per hour and indoor training venues such as games halls or five-a-side halls charging around £30 per hour, a severe winter can see grassroots sides fork out as much as £260 every week in pitch hires.
A summer season could limit weekly pitch hires to just £40 per week, or nothing at all for the many grassroots clubs who own their own pitch.
However, for a game built on volunteers, a nationwide rejig would require extensive consultation and planning to implement this new structure effectively. Nonetheless, the SYFA are still willing to bring this to fruition, should they agree it would be of betterment to the grassroots game:
“We have a duty to listen to our members and respond appropriately and responsibly to such suggestions and as such will be conducting an extensive consultation project, initially with our member leagues, in order to discuss the practicalities of this suggestion”
With this proposal now being investigated, players could return to the field with small but significant adjustments. By moving the goalposts just slightly, the SYFA can make grassroots football more affordable, enjoyable, and accessible for all.
The coronavirus outbreak, and subsequent national lockdown, has robbed us of thousands of hours of football across the country. We cannot allow another harsh Scottish winter to place a further burden on grassroots football, we must protect our clubs and officially adopt a summer football season.
- €4.8 million euros in subjective wellbeing
- More than €500,000 euros in improved mental health
- €275,000 value in tackling dementia
- €250,000 in combatting abscences from school
- €350,000 in educational attainment
- €2.5 million euros from investment in infrastructure
- €1 million euros in value from volunteering
- €1.5 million euros value in subjective wellbeing
- €170,000 euros in improved mental health
- €100,000 euros in reducing Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes
Ian Maxwell, Scottish FA Chief Executive: “This next phase of UEFA research is invaluable in proving that the benefits of Scottish football extend far beyond 90 minutes.
“We have been well aware for some time of the importance of Scottish community clubs to their local areas and this study now helps us put a figure on that.
“The fantastic work that Ayr United and Spartans undertake has long established them as pillars of their respective communities and it is rewarding to see such impressive figures in vital areas such as health and mental wellbeing.
“Having access to this data will hopefully go some way to helping these community clubs to attract further investment, allowing them to improve what they offer to their communities and, in turn, growing the value that they provide.”
Ralph Chalmers, owner of St Andrew Print, said “We have found that these interactive cards generate many questions, not just for young people but also for communities, as part of awareness, and, more importantly, parents who know very little about the significant changes to drug issues and the severe consequences, until it’s too late. As far as we are aware, no one else in the world is producing an interactive drug prevention and awareness initiative that involves a range of drug associated smells.
”Having worked very closely with medical professionals, professor of chemistry, police drug squad and ex drug addicts, we have successfully replicated these smells, which are very distinct and somewhat off-putting. Although the two smells of cannabis are of the raw drug, the two smells of mephedrone and amphetamine ARE NOT THE DRUG but the effect of taking the drug and what smell is emitted, in the form of body odour, which then contaminates clothing.”
Another initiative created by St Andrew Print are ‘Gambling with your Life’ a scratch card relating to New Psychoactive Substance, formerly known as legal highs, showing how random the consequences are in taking this drug.
Some people do not realise the affect drugs can have on your appearance, so St Andrew Print created a card showing faces of both male and female drug users with before and after images. The cards are called ‘The Real Face of Drugs’ and some of the faces are unrecognisable.
Check out their website and testimonials on drug awareness: http://www.standrewprint.co.uk/products/drugs-scratch-sniff
You have until 12pm on Monday 16th January to nominate a goal. The goal must meet the following requirements:
Last weekend's action across the country was largely halted by the intervention of Jack Frost. Fortunately the snow has seemed to pass and we are looking at having a full card of fixtures on show this weekend.
Cup competitions are the focus this week, with Scottish Cup quarter finals taking place at U13 and U14 level.
Here are the pick of the games from across the country this weekend:
Portobello CFA vs West Lothian U13 - Stewart Brien Cup - Quarter Final
Both of these sides occupy the top two places in the SERYFA U13's First Division, meaning that we can expect a really close contest in thei Stewart Brien Cup Quarter Final match.
Portobello will go into the match as favourites, having fared much better in cup competitions this season than their opponents, as well as still holding a 100% record in the league.
West Lothian will be motivated however. They are in good form and sit top of the league at the moment. They will also be looking to avenge their defeat against Portobello earlier in the season in the Lothian Buses Cup, losing 5-2. Here is hoping for another high-scoring game on Sunday.
Dundee Celtic BC vs East Craigie Swifts U15 - Tommy Clark Trophy - Semi Final
These two played each other in December, with Dundee Celtic emerging as 1-0 winners, and a close match is expected once again in this highly anticipated semi final clash in the DDYFA.
Both sides are pushing hard in the league, occupying the second and third spots in the DDYFA U15s G Taylor League. Celtic occupy second, just two points above East Craigie having played one game more.
East Craigie will be looking to avenge their defeat to Celtic earlier in the season and both teams will be hoping that this game beats the weather.
Banks O'Dee Albion vs Dyce BC U15 - ADJFA U15's A League
A match with real ramifications at the top of the ADJFA A League takes place this weekend as Dyce BC travel to Spain Park to take on Banks O'Dee Albion.
Both sides have had great runs in the Scottish Cup. Banks O'Dee made it to the fifth round before being cruelly knocked out on penalties in a classic against Kilsyth Athletic, whilst Dyce have made it to the semi finals of the competition.
The last meeting between these two ended in a 1-1 draw so it will be interesting to see if anyone can come out on top this time.
EKFC Blue vs Hurlford BC U19 - Scottish Youth FA Cup - Quarter Final
Familiar opponents for both of these teams this weekend. These two contested the Scottish Cup Final last season and will clash for a place in this season's semis.
On that occasion it was EKFC who emerged victorious with a 2-1 win after extra time and it is expected that this match on Sunday will be equally close.
Hurlford will have their eyes set on revenge as well as a semi final place, whilst EKFC will be looking to complete consecutive cup triumphs.
Livingston goalkeeper Liam Kelly believes coaching is vital to a young shot-stopper and insists happiness will help young keepers reach the top.
Kelly was on hand to make a guest appearance at GK Icon’s free taster session on Friday night, with the training being led by Clyde’s goalkeeper coach Chris Fahey and Stranraer goalkeeping coach Eric Phillips. He explained why he wanted to help Fahey’s and Phillips’ initiative.
“I’ve came to support GK Icon because of the great work Chris and Eric do with the young kids. They give a lot back to the young goalkeepers in the Paisley and Renfrewshire area, so I want to be able to support that and answer a few questions the kids may have. I’m just happy they have the chance to work with great coaches like Eric and Chris."
Kelly is enjoying his first stint as a regular Premiership goalkeeper, having left boyhood club Rangers in the summer. He has played a vital part in what has been a great season back in the top flight for Livi. He shared his thoughts on what he thinks is key for a young keeper in the modern game.
“I think it’s important to listen, that’s a big thing. You should have an opinion, tell your coaches what you see and just try and get better everyday and in every training session.
“Every game you have an opportunity to become a better player, a better person and a better goalkeeper. Everytime you have a ball and a set goals with your mates is a chance to improve as a keeper, so just give it your best shot. As long as your happy just try and play to the best of your ability.”
Having made it to the top level, Kelly is aware of how hard it is to make it as a professional goalkeeper, and the demands of the modern game. He gave his advice on the best way for young keepers to develop their skills.
“When you get the opportunity to work with great coaches like Eric and Chris, I would take it if I was their age.
“In the grand scheme of things in terms of their career, it’s all about being happy. When times are tough just remember there is another game around the corner to put it right. Just enjoy playing your football, and then you can try and get to the highest level possible, wherever that is.”
Clyde goalkeeper coach Chris Fahey is helping young keepers learn from the best- and hopes that his GK Icon sessions encourage youngsters to put on the gloves.
Fahey runs his GK Icon sessions every Monday and Friday at the MOBO Sports Arena in Paisley alongside Stranraer goalkeeping coach Eric Phillips. He enlisted the help of Livingston keeper Liam Kelly and Falkirk’s David Mitchell to help run a free taster session for young goalkeepers.
He hopes the kids have learned from their experience training with professional keepers: “I was really pleased with the turnout we got. There were about 60 or 70 kids here, so that was good. They all had smiles on their face, and I hope they have learned something from me, David, Liam and Eric.
“I was pleased Liam and David came along and gave that bit of inspiration to the boys and girls that were here. They are playing at a really good level, so it’s good for the kids to see them here.”
Fahey and Phillips’ sessions are all about learning the fundamentals of goalkeeping, whilst enjoying themselves in the process. Fahey revealed his own experiences growing up inspired him to start up his own goalkeeper sessions for youngsters.
“When I was a kid, I never had any goalkeeping coaching. When I was young you were told to go into the corner, and kick a ball around with each other, I never really knew about technique or how to become a goalkeeper.
“That’s why myself and Eric started this. We now have a bit of experience behind us, and hopefully we can pass that on to the kids.
“Some of the kids we train do the same drills now as the ones I do with Clyde’s first team, the kids just pick it up very quickly.”
Having played for many teams across Scotland, including Albion Rovers, Raith Rovers, and Stenhousemuir, Fahey has plenty of goalkeeping wisdom and knowledge he can pass on to aspiring keepers.
He shared his top tips for young goalkeepers: “The main thing is being told how to be a goalkeeper. This means they won’t pick up bad habits from a guy who has never played in goals before.
“Guys like me and Eric have played professionally all our lives and we have guys that are professional just now coming in and telling them what to do and what not to. Coming to classes like this even if it’s only an hour a week will really help their development.
“My biggest piece of advice for a young goalkeeper, and their parents, is if they make a mistake don’t worry about it. Turn on Match of the Day on a Saturday night and you’ll see players on £100,000 a week making mistakes. You just have to get on with it.
“The biggest thing about being a goalkeeper is to learn from mistakes and try not do it again. All goalkeepers make mistakes. I think managers and parents have to realize that."