Features & Blogs (122)
Dom Thomas may only be 22, but that isn’t stopping his aspirations of becoming a successful youth coach.
Dom Thomas currently plays for Dumbarton, on loan from Kilmarnock, and has also enjoyed spells at Motherwell and Queen of the South. Despite being in the infancy of his career, Thomas explained he is eager to get into youth football coaching sooner rather than later:
“The way Scottish football is, for me, is that its downfall comes from coaching. I want to make my mark on the game as early as I can." said Thomas.
“It’s frustrating to watch young kids playing up and down the country go into pro youth football and coaching. I feel that the ability gets knocked out of them a bit and they're not allowed to go and express themselves, which I don't agree with. I’ve experienced it myself and I just think the way some players are coached, I just don’t agree with it.”
These thoughts have Thomas determined to provide coaching to youths in his local area of Cambuslang, which he has done through his Dom Thomas Soccer School.
“I set up the academy about a year ago but it mainly consisted of small group sessions. I decided to do some camps over October which I felt was the perfect time to start doing the camps. We’ve had 64 boys come through which is absolutely amazing. It’s good for me also as it taking place in Cambuslang, which is where I grew up playing.”
Thomas, having finished his early youth career, is hoping he can leave a good impression on those who come to his camps: “For me I want to make it as enjoyable as possible. I make sure they play with a smile on their face and make friends. The kids have been polite and well-mannered as well which make it easier for me as a coach.
“Obviously there are serious elements to it but if I get a talented kid in, I tell them to express themselves, take as many touches, and make that great pass. In this country you’re told you need to be big and strong, for me I want to express my kid’s ability.”
Thomas already has plans for the future, and hopes he can continue to influence the way young people from Cambuslang play the beautiful game: “I want to teach the younger age groups what I have learnt from my own experience.
If you have an ability, go and show your ability. Whether that be through my camps or out with your friends, because sooner or later you’ll look back and wish you had done certain things better.”
At a time when grassroots sport faces more government cutbacks, it is important that amateur clubs have a sound understanding of other streams of revenue open to them that can potentially be used to develop and sustain their organisations.
In 2001, following the famous Bosman ruling, FIFA introduced the training compensation system which would apply to clubs who were involved in the training and education of young players. The ideology behind the system was to encourage increased and better-quality training of young players by awarding compensation to those clubs who had been involved and invested in their training and education. At the same time, FIFA also introduced the solidarity mechanism system which provides compensation to former clubs who have provided training and education to a player, each time that player is transferred between clubs of two different national associations in exchange for a transfer fee.
Article 20 of the FIFA Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players (“FIFA RSTP”) govern the system of training compensation and states that:
“Training compensation shall be paid to a player’s training club(s): (1) when a player signs his first contract as a professional, and (2) each time a professional is transferred until the end of the season of his 23rd birthday. The obligation to pay training compensation arises whether the transfer takes place during or at the end of the player’s contract.”
Further information as to when the system is triggered and how compensation is calculated can be found under Annex 4 of FIFA RSTP. The training compensation system applies to the training and education of players between the ages of 12 and 21, and will only be paid up to the age of 23 for training incurred up to the age of 21. In certain circumstances, clubs who are liable to pay such compensation may be able to establish that a player’s training had already concluded prior to the age of 21 (but this should only be in exceptional cases). The obligation to pay training compensation is over and above that of the transfer fee, although if two clubs agree on a transfer fee this is regarded as being inclusive of training compensation unless stipulated otherwise. Further, it should also be noted that FIFA has advised, in previous disputes, that only the entitled clubs can expressly waive their right to training compensation. Therefore, it cannot be agreed by the two clubs involved in the immediate transfer, that training compensation will be waived by all former clubs involved in the training and education of the player. Only you, as the entitled club, can waive that right.
There are two scenarios where training compensation will apply: -
On registering as a professional player for the first time.
Any subsequent transfer of a player, between two clubs of different associations, up until the end of the season of the player’s 23rd birthday.
Upon the registration of a professional player for the first time, training compensation will be due to all former clubs of which the player has previously been registered and who has contributed to his training since the start of his 12th birthday. In relation to any subsequent transfer of that player, FIFA RSTP allow for only the immediate former club to receive training compensation.
The calculation of training compensation is carried out on a pro-rata basis and associations are instructed to divide their clubs into a maximum of four categories which correspond with the clubs’ financial investment in training players. There is a set figure attached to each category and the sum equates to the average training cost incurred for one player over the course of one year, multiplied by a “player factor”.
The current categorisation for UEFA clubs is as follows:
Category 1 - €90,000
Category 2 - €60,000
Category 3 - €30,000
Category 4 - €10,000
It should be noted that in the UK, England has clubs spanning all four categories whilst Scotland has clubs ranging from categories 2-4 with Northern Ireland and Wales having clubs identified in categories 3-4.
Under FIFA RSTP, training compensation only applies to the international transfer of players (a transfer between clubs of two different national associations, ie. England and Scotland) however clubs/academies should pay particular attention to their national association/league rules and regulations as similar compensation schemes may be due upon a domestic transfer under certain jurisdictions (for example, in Northern Ireland and Scotland).
The rules regarding training compensation apply to both the permanent and temporary (loan) transfers of professional players.
Under FIFA’s rules, the payment of training compensation is the responsibility of the club which is registering the player, and payments should be made within 30 days of the registration with the new association/or the date on which the first professional contract was signed. However, in reality, this often does not happen and buying clubs may hold back on the payment until the entitled club makes a request in writing, or raises a claim with the Dispute Resolution Chamber (an independent dispute resolution service provided by FIFA).
If you think you may be entitled to training compensation, you should contact the buying club in the first instance and if no response is forthcoming, lodge a claim with the Dispute Resolution Chamber in the event of an international transfer or your national association in the event of a domestic transfer and a similar scheme is available to you under domestic rules.
Clubs claiming an entitlement to training compensation only have two years from the date of the relevant player’s registration with the new club to lodge a claim with FIFA, and this should be taken into account by any club considering any claim.
Unlike training compensation, solidarity payments do not cease to apply upon the conclusion of the season of the player’s 23rd birthday. Instead, the solidarity system continues to apply upon every international transfer until the player retires. In order to claim a solidarity mechanism payment, the claimant club requires to have trained and educated the player between the ages of 12 and 23, and the international transfer has to have taken place whilst under contract.
Under FIFA RSTP, 5% of the transfer compensation agreed with the selling club must be held back by the buying club and distributed to the former clubs involved in training over the time period discussed above. For seasons of which the player was aged between 12 and 15, former clubs shall receive 0.25% of the total compensation whilst clubs who trained the player during the seasons of his 16th and 23rd birthdays shall receive 0.5% of the total compensation. If a player was not with a former club for an entire season, the compensation will be calculated pro-rata.
To put this into perspective when Neymar moved to PSG for a record-breaking transfer fee of €250m, his former club Santos was reported to have received the equivalent of €9m as part of their share of the solidarity contribution. Neymar had been previously registered with Santos for in excess of five seasons, during which time he had been part of the youth squad as well as the first team. Further, youth amateur clubs have also made the headlines for their receipt of solidarity contribution. In 2015, Wallsend Boys Club received a cash boost when they claimed their share of the 5% solidarity contribution from Fraser Forster’s transfer from Celtic to Southampton. In addition, the club also received a healthy cash injection when Jermain Defoe transferred from Toronto to Southampton. More recently Dyce Boys Club, in Scotland, received a six-figure sum following Stuart Armstrong’s move from Celtic to Southampton.
Under FIFA’s rules, the payment of solidarity contribution is the responsibility of the buying club and payments should be made within 30 days of the transfer of the player. However, as per training compensation, buying clubs may sit on the sums until the claimant club requests it in writing or files a with the Dispute Resolution Chamber (an independent dispute resolution service provided by FIFA).
Again, clubs/academies should pay particular attention to their national association/league rules and regulations as similar schemes may be triggered upon a domestic transfer in certain jurisdictions.
If you think you may be entitled to solidarity contribution, you should contact the buying club in the first instance and if no response is forthcoming, lodge a claim with the Dispute Resolution Chamber in the event of an international transfer or your national association in the event of a domestic transfer and a similar scheme is available to you under domestic rules.
As in the case of training compensation, it should be noted that claimants only have two years from the date of the relevant player’s registration with the new club to lodge a claim with FIFA, and this should be taken into account by any club considering a claim because after which time their claim will become time-barred.
The rules regarding solidarity mechanism also apply to both permanent and temporary (loan) transfers of players.
Whilst transfer fees continue to grow, amateur clubs must take the opportunity to benefit from this significant revenue stream that is readily open to them. Solidarity contribution, in particular, has the ability to provide continuous significant funding to amateur clubs as it continues to trigger upon every transfer, and does not cease at the end of the season of the player’s 23rd birthday. The solidarity mechanism is therefore a vital source of revenue that can assist in ensuring the sustainability of amateur clubs, many of which find it increasingly difficult to raise the funds required to operate year in, year out.
It is important therefore that amateur clubs (1) ensure that they are familiar with the FIFA rules governing training compensation and solidarity mechanism, (2) understand what payments they are entitled to and when they become due and (3) keep track of the movements of their former players.
If your club would like further information or to discuss a matter relating to Training Compensation or Solidarity Contribution, please get in touch on 0131 473 1592 and we would be happy to assist you.
We have all been there as parents on many occasions. We have stood in glorious weather and horrific weather, seen many great performances and seen plenty of forgettable ones.
Sometimes we are in great spirits ourselves, have had a good week at work and have not been rushing around like maniacs trying to get our children to all of their scheduled events.
Other times we struggle to know what day of the week it is and arrive at our children’s sporting commitments with seconds to spare having picked up our Costa coffee that helps us get through the next hour, flustered and probably not in the best frame of mind.
So many external factors can have an impact on what we say and how we behave around our children and perhaps none more so than after a match or a training session. I really get it that watching our children play sport is one of the greatest things, particularly when it all goes well and according to plan. However, what happens when things do not or we have had that bad week at work?
Have you ever thought or reflected on how you may behave afterwards with your child or is it dependent on how they have performed or how you are feeling? To some extent of course it is.
Having reflected on this we felt it a good idea that no matter how you may be feeling inside, no matter how bad your week has been, no matter how stressed you are that there are a few questions that you can ask your child that allow both you and them to be positive about the experience that you have just watched, regardless of their performance.
POSITIVE PHRASES AND QUESTIONS YOU COULD SAY OR ASK
‘I love you’ – First and foremost, you are their parent, not their coach. Remind them that your love is not conditional on their performance or the result. The comfort and support that comes from hearing ‘I love you’ will stay with your child long after memories of the match fade.
‘I’m proud of you’ – Research into the fear of failure consistently shows that the fear of shame and disappointment is the biggest in youth sport. Telling your child that you are proud will help reduce their worries that they have let you down.
‘What was the best bit?’ – Even if your child has not performed as well as you may have liked, they will have found something positive. It may be the post match hot dog but it allows them to reflect on the positive part of the experience for them.
‘Did you have fun?’ – Sport is meant to be fun. It is why most kids want to take part. If this is the first question you ask, you’ll reinforce this.
‘Who was your best team mate?’ – Foster a belief in your child that it is about the whole group. Ask them for their opinions and don’t be tempted to interrupt and give them all of yours.
‘What did you think you did well today?’ – Another way to increase intrinsic motivation is to focus on how they performed and not what the score was. Again, this allows them to reflect and think about parts of their own performance that they were in control of.
PHRASES AND QUESTIONS TO PERHAPS TRY AND AVOID (NOT ALWAYS EASY!)
‘Did You Win?’ – If you were not watching, undoubtedly the most common question asked by sporting parents. This immediately tells your child that that is the thing that you value most, yet we know there are far more important things that form your children’s sporting experience. Of course you may want to ask this question, just try not to make it your first one.
‘Did you score?’ – Probably the second most common question asked by sporting parents. Again, it gives the child the impression that the outcome is what you value most. What happens if they made five assists, made more tackles and worked harder than any other player?
‘Why Did You Do That?’ – This is all about assigning blame. It is aggressive and your child does not need this type of debrief. Every child will make millions of mistakes and poor decisions, it is really important that we do not put them off making any decisions at all. I know we would like them to learn from their experiences but there are better ways and better times to do this.
‘That was awful’ – This takes the fun out of sport and involves making a judgement call on how they played. At best, you are right that they didn’t play well and this confirms their doubts. At worst, they think they played well and your withering assessment shatters their confidence.
‘False Praise’ – Giving lavish praise can be detrimental to young children. Children can be quite apt at telling when they are being praised for no real reason.
‘You Were So Much Better Than Them/Him/Her’ – Try not to make statements that compare with others. Making comparisons is not a healthy way of helping talent and our children develop.
‘It Doesn’t Matter’ – Of course, in the long run, the performance and result of an U11 match doesn’t really matter; but, at the time, it may matter to your child. It is good to try and provide context, but trivialising the defeat won’t make them feel any better.
Of course, this probably makes a huge amount of sense in the cold light of day, but many things can potentially affect the environment after our children have trained or been involved in a match. Try to keep a couple of the positive phrases up your sleeve! They may be useful as you are calming down and ultimately they will have a far more positive impact on the enjoyment of your child. Remember that is why they are ultimately playing in the first place.
He said: “I’m delighted for Fraser. You can see a young player starting to emerge and he’s developing all the time.
"He had a good tournament in Toulon in the summer and he’s really benefited from playing against those sort of teams.
“He’s got that physicality which is important but Fraser is not just about that. It’s about intelligence, a willingness to do the work and the talent as well. In football today you need the full package but he is definitely on schedule.
“I’m thrilled he’s come home to play in Scotland in an important qualification match and done so well.
“I’m sure clubs are queuing up to take him on loan now.”
Whether Hornby will take up the option of moving away is another factor to consider. The youngster has set his aspirations high this season and hopes to force his way into Everton manager Marco Silva's plans for this season.
What is certain is that Everton defnitely view Hornby as a valuable asset to the English Premier League club. Hornby made his first-team debut in a Europa League tie against Apollon Limassol, playing 82 minutes in a 3-0 victory, and he has also won the club's coveted Keith Tamlin award, an award given to a player for their “excellence, attitude and application” during their time in Everton's Academy.
And if that already wasn't enough hype to live up to, he has also been taken under the wing of Everton icon Duncan Ferguson. Standing at 6ft 2in, Hornby certainly measures up well against Ferguson and it is clear to see that his partnership with the former Scotland international has had a positive impact.
“Duncan’s a fantastic person to learn off" said Hornby during the summer
"I’ve had the pleasure of training with the first team quite a lot over the last few months and he’s been really good with me.
“I think he understands that I’m still learning the position (Hornby was signed from Northampton as a midfielder). So I’m taking all of his advice on board and hopefully it’ll make me a better player.
“I’ve got two sides to me. I’ve got a side to me off the pitch but when I go on it, it’s all business for me. I like to put myself about in the right way. But off the pitch, it’s important to have a balance of being calm before you cross that white line.
“The best bit of advice he’s given me is to always be in the box.
"Pundits often say about strikers that they’re in the best place at the right time. But, if you can get yourself into the best position all the time, you've got a better chance of scoring goals.”
(Photo courtesy of Kilmarnock FC)
Jack Paterson raised a few eyebrows when he left Kilmarnock in September 2017. The young midfielder had already been drafted into the first team squad by Lee Clark, even making the bench twice. But, with one post on Instagram, the midfielder announced he was leaving his boyhood club of nine years.
His destination? Doha, Qatar. His dad had been offered a job in the Arab Gulf, and Jack moved with the family.
“I went over to Qatar and spoke to a few clubs and then I went to train with Al-Gharafa.”
Al-Gharafa are a relatively successful club in Qatar, playing in nearby Al Rayyan. They’ve won the league seven times, with the last win coming in 2010, and they also won the Qatari Stars Cup (Qatar’s version of the League Cup) this year. Notable former players include Marcel Desailly, Ze Roberto, and Juninho Pernambucano, and there’s one current star plying his trade for The Cheetahs, but more on him later.
Moving to Qatar was always going to present some challenges, but the former Grange Performance Academy pupil wasn’t too fazed by his new surroundings.
“At first it was quite hard,” Jack admitted. “It was near the summertime when I went, so it was 35-40 degrees. We had to train in the mornings, at about eight o’clock so that it wasn’t too sunny. I found it okay, but at first it was difficult.”
“The Qatari teams were quite good. The team I was training with had Wesley Sneijder, so I was training with him some days, and that was crazy. Vladimir Weiss was there as well.”
“Basically all the Qataris speak English. I didn’t think that would be the case, but it was. Every team was an English-speaking club, so it wasn’t too bad.”
In total, he spent five months in Qatar. Signing for a club would prove difficult given the Qatari leagues foreign player rules, not allowing Jack to sign for a team until he was 23. Instead, he trained with Al-Gharafas under-23s, managing a handful of appearances as a trialist.
He returned to less sunny shores in January 2018, when Kilmarnock’s fortunes had begun to drastically change.
“I just wanted to come back to Scotland basically,” Jack said. “Steve Clarke had just come back to Killie, so I thought it was a good opportunity for me.”
“There were a couple of other teams as well. Kilmarnock had the compensation rule with me. So, if a team from Scotland or England wanted to sign me they had to pay £200,000, so nobody was going to do that,” he laughed modestly.
It’s not too surprising to hear that he was attracting interest, even if his profile had gone somewhat off the radar. His inclusion on the bench against Aberdeen and Inverness had turned heads, but he was also in the first team squad for an October 2016 trip to Celtic Park – an experience he describes as “mental”.
“I think we’d played on the Thursday night, and it was at hom,” Jack explained. “Lee Clark [then Kilmarnock manager] came into the dressing room after the game and he was like that: ‘You’re coming in to train tomorrow with the first team, you’re missing school, and you’re going up on Saturday with the first team.’
“It was amazing. It’s a huge stadium. [Souleymane] Coulibaly scored that goal that day, and I was just freaking out.”
Jack’s journey has taken him from SFA Performance School, to Celtic Park, to Qatar, and back to playing reserve football for Kilmarnock – but he wouldn’t change any of it.
On his time at the Grange, he said: “You can see the boys like Harry Cochrane and all that coming through just now. You get over two hours football training a day, so it’s only going to benefit you and some of the stuff Andy Goldie does really helps. It improves you technically every day.”
Even though his time with Al-Gharafa was short-lived, he doesn’t regret it and even encouraged other youngsters to take the chance to go abroad.
“Playing with players like Sneijder every day, you don’t really get that here. I was meeting new people as well. It was just great, I loved it.
“Obviously, I tried, and it didn’t really work out for me,” he continued, “but I wouldn’t say it’s made me any worse a player. I definitely think it’s a good idea and if an opportunity like that comes up, you should definitely try it.”
So, what now for the one time Football Manager wonderkid? Back at Killie, he wants to force his way into Steve Clarke’s plans, but knows he has to impress reserve boss Andy Millen first.
“We’ve played three games in the reserve league so far - won two and drew one - so hopefully we’ll try and stay up the top of the table and try and win a few more games.
“Personally, I’d like to be challenging to get up with the first team, but you need to be starting every game for the reserve team if you want to be up there. So, playing for the reserves every week is probably my main aim.”
SFA Performance School Manager and Under-17s head coach Brian McLaughlin reckons Scotland are producing some of the most gifted youth players in all of Europe.
Speaking on the Official Scotland Podcast before the 17s recorded back-to-back victories over Russia in Spain this past week, McLaughlin discussed the importance of developing players at youth level to play the ‘Scotland way’.
He said: “I don’t think there’s any European nation that I’ve played [as head coach of the 17s] that are better technically than us.
“That includes Spain, Germany, Croatia, England and Italy – there’s none of them better technically than us.
“Where we’ve really tried to change our training is on our awareness and tactical work.
“When you come away with Scotland you don’t do any technical work.
“If I’ve got a Scotland squad for six days, I’m not going to make any one of those players technically better – it’s just not going to happen.
“We’re always trying to work on their awareness and tactics because the technique is there; our clubs are doing a fantastic job.
“I think where we do still lack is physicality. We’re definitely much later in catching up.
“We do recruit players for the future; we’re recruiting them for a game they’re going to play in three or four years from now.
“So, sometimes when we go on the pitch we are miles off it physically.”
McLaughlin, who had previously worked as Performance School Coach at Holyrood High School in Glasgow prior to taking charge of the programme, also talked about the success of the Performance Schools.
Now in its seventh year, the performance school programme is a unique innovation designed to get Scotland’s brightest young talent training more. Seven schools from regions across the country were selected to be part of the initiative, and players from clubs all across each region were invited to attend these schools. Training at the academy then becomes part of their daily timetable, before they report back to their club academies in the evening.
McLaughlin discussed how this system – which has helped produce the likes of Harry Cochrane and Billy Gilmour – has proven successful so far.
“Short term? Yeah it’s worked.
“We’ve had seven 16-year-olds make their debut, which is quite incredible. If you look at the last 25 years of Scottish football we haven’t had seven 16-year-olds make their debut.
“So, instant success has been really good, our national youth squads have certainly benefitted from it.”
‘What are they doing?
‘They look like Bambi on ice.’
‘I don’t understand, they could do that a few weeks ago.’
‘Why are we bothering, it looks like they have done no sport at all.’
These are just some of the comments that I have heard on the side lines of training sessions and matches over the last few years. Do you know what? At some point in time, both in their early years of growth and during puberty, all parents and coaches will have noticed physical and mental changes in the players that they are involved with.
Puberty is the most documented growth and development spurt but prior to that children will experience many mini growth spurts. If your child grows a few centimetres very quickly, you will undoubtedly watch them struggle to find their feet so to speak.
They will look uncoordinated, they may trip over the ball, the piece of skill they could do easily only a few weeks ago looks a distant memory. They may have lost some speed and their changes of direction suddenly look more like the QE2 turning.
There is no need to panic, they have probably just grown.
It will often take them a few weeks to retrain their brains and bodies to coordinate the movements once again to the height that they are now working from. It will soon come back together for them and it is important during this stage that both parents and coaches back off and do not shout and criticise them too much.
It can be difficult to watch as a parent, but patience and bags of encouragement and understanding is really important no matter how frustrated you may be feeling.
Going through puberty which can generally last for two to five years will have a much more significant impact on the development and performance of your child. It will be a long and bumpy ride and where possible it needs to be managed as effectively as possible.
Most girls will start puberty between 8-13 (average age around 12) and have their major growth spurt between 10-14.
Most boys will start puberty between 10-13 and continue to grow until around 16-17 years of age.
During these periods you will notice an increase in body size, hormones and muscle strength and a temporary decline in balance, skills and body control. In fact they may well just appear as clumsy.
This is just a temporary phase in your child’s development, with temporary being the key word.
Your child’s coach should be aware of these stages and once again it is vital that both parents and coaches remain positive and encouraging.
The more parents and coaches can understand and recognise this, the better the environment you will be able to create for your children playing.
Based on the above the best advice for parents would be:
Do not panic if your child suddenly looks clumsy
Do not start constantly yelling at them at this stage, no matter how frustrated you may be feeling
Speak to the coach - make sure they are aware of the situation.
Seek advice on the amount of training during puberty to help prevent overuse injuries
By now we all know the story.
Ever since he broke into the Liverpool first team at the turn of the year, reminders of Andy Robertson’s humble journey have followed the 24-year-old Champions League finalist wherever he’s gone.
A mere five years before he was competing against the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Sergio Ramos and Luka Modric on the grandest stage in European football, the former Celtic youth player was turning out for Queen’s Park in front of a few hundred fans a week in a near empty Hampden Park.
It was called a remarkable rise. It was fairy tale stuff.
But the truth, for the Scotland left-back, is that the path to stardom began long before his days in the fourth tier of Scottish Football.
As a youngster growing up in Giffnock, Robertson recalls it was at an early age that he discovered a love of football that would start him on his journey:
“As a young boy I was always running about kicking a ball.” He said. “I used to go and watch my big brother until I was at an age where I could join a team.
“I played with my local team [Giffnock Soccer Centre] and my dad coached us. I remember being four or five years old and playing 4-a-side football. I played there, with my dad as a coach throughout, up until I had to move to Celtic where I stayed until I was nine or ten.”
Unsurprisingly, Robertson is still thought of incredibly highly at Giffnock Soccer Centre, and his story is one the club hopes can inspire more up-and-coming young players.
Club Chairman Donald MacLennan said: “Andy joined us at a young age, before his talent was spotted by Celtic and he left to start his pro youth career.
“He was and clearly still is a very hard working, grounded young man.
“All of us are delighted to have been a part of Andy’s journey and he is regularly held up as an example to all of the boys and girls at our club.”
Despite being coached by some of Europe’s best, Robertson insists he still carries some of the lessons he learned as a youth player into every game:
“I think the most important thing – especially at that age – is to enjoy it.
“That’s what I always tried to do and to this day I still try and take that into every game. It’s served me well so far.
“You see a lot of the top players have a smile on their face and I think that’s key.
“I still go and watch some kids football, and I think that some coaches can take it too seriously at times and put a lot of pressure on the players. [My dad and other coaches] were very much of the ‘go and enjoy the play’ mindset.
“Of course, we wanted to win the games, but it was more important to enjoy than to win, and because we were enjoying it we won more than we lost.”
Robertson recalls that he was playing so much football at that age that remembering particular highlights or matches is a struggle; what he remembers most is the enjoyment he got from the sport.
“I think I was playing three or four games a weekend so trying to remember them all is hard, but I loved my time as a youngster just playing all weekend.
“Going to school on Monday was always a bad thing.”
However, he does admit that one game stands out – even if it’s not a particularly fond memory:
“We never quite managed to get to any cup finals or anything, but I did get to a school cup semi-final [with St Ninian’s High School].
“We got beat and I got sent off, so I think that one’s remembered for all the wrong reasons.”
But semi-final defeats aren’t the only adversity he’s faced; famously, he was released by Celtic at under-15 level. Looking back, Robertson believes the disappointment helped motivate him, and urges any other young players in a similar situation to follow his example:
“To get let go from the club you support is that wee bit harder, but I just used it as my motivation and tried to prove to the people that maybe didn’t think I was good enough wrong,” he said. “Luckily, I’ve managed to do that, and for people in the same position I would say try and do the same because there have been a lot of good players that I’ve played with at different ages that haven’t kicked on because they’ve had one rejection and not known quite how to deal with it.
“I think up and down this country there’s a lot of talent goes to waste. If people can try to use the rejection in the right way, then hopefully it can be positive for the country because there will be a lot more players making it.”
And now, with a wealth of experience under his belt, Robertson has returned home to help inspire the next generation of Scottish talent.
Ahead of his return to Merseyside for pre-season, he took the time to make an appearance at a ProAcademy session at Rouken Glen in Giffnock.
ProAcademy is a coaching initiative that aims to provide professional coaching to kids, and was launched in association with Robertson.
The Liverpool and Scotland star answered questions and signed autographs for the young players and is hopeful that ProAcademy will help pave the way for these kids to have bright careers in football.
“Although my dad was a good enough coach, I’d much rather be coached by someone like [Technical Director and former professional footballer] Simon Donnelly,” he said. “We’ve got Simon and other coaches that are so enthusiastic about it. The kids can come and get excellent coaching and, more importantly, try and enjoy it.
“I worked closely with Simon at Dundee Utd and I know how good a coach he is, so if he could transfer it to younger kids then that would stand them in good stead and it’s proven that way. It can only be positive for Scottish Football and we hope that it can make even a small difference, and that maybe we can find one or two players that can hopefully pull on the Scotland jersey one day.”
For the kids taking their first tentative steps into football, the thought of playing for Scotland must seem like a pipe dream.
But, as Andy Robertson has proven, nothing is impossible.