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The Gothia Cup is the world’s largest youth football tournament, with around 1,700 teams representing 80 countries taking part. 820,000 people watched online as games were streamed live from Gothenburg. Six Scottish clubs sent teams to compete in the tournament, with mixed fortunes.
Aberdeen FC
The Dons sent just one team – their Under 17s - to Gothenburg with high hopes and were rewarded in their first match, a 2-1 win over IFK Gothenburg of Sweden. In their two remaining group stage games, Aberdeen were defeated; a 3-1 loss to Gamba Osaka from Japan and a 2-1 defeat to Swedish side AIK. The Dons were on track to take AIK to penalties before conceding a late goal. In the last 16, Aberdeen faced Djurgarden of Sweden and came back from two goals down to draw the match 2-2, with goals from Joseph MacPherson and Lyall Booth. Aberdeen went on to lose the shootout 5-4 as their run in the tournament ended.
Boroughmuir Thistle (pictured above)
The only team in Scotland to send girls teams, Boroughmuir Thistle sent two teams of Under 12s to contest in Gothenburg. Boroughmuir were chosen to represent Scotland at the opening ceremony at a packed 50,000-seater stadium. The first team were defeated in each of their group games against Toronto High Park FC of Canada and two Swedish outfits: IK Zenith and Orby IS. They dropped into the B playoff and were subsequently beaten 5-0 by Sweden’s Kullavik IF. The second team fared a little better; they were defeated in each of their group games against Canadian and Swedish opposition, but won their knockout match against Rodsle BK from Sweden. In the last 16, Orby IS overcame Boroughmuir 2-0 and their cup run was over.
Scott Freeborn, manager, said: “I think it was a great experience for them. Just travelling around the city you’d see so many teams from all around the world and you’d get talking to them. I’m sure the girls are feeling inspired and ready to move up to the next level, and that will stand them in good stead going forward.”
Currie Star FC
Currie Star sent six teams from four age groups to compete at the Gothia Cup - three teams of Under 12s, an Under 13s, an Under 14s and an Under 18s. The third group of Under 12s performed admirably, competing against opponents from Sweden, Brazil and Mexico whilst overcoming another of Currie Star’s teams on the way. The 18s can look back on their tournament with pride; victories over Sweden’s Frolunda (1-0) and VfR Bachem of Germany (2-0) gave them a flying start in the group stages. Cruelly, they conceded a late goal against Burnley College Football Academy, losing the game 1-0, which meant that they dropped into the lower playoff despite finishing their group on six points. It meant that Bachem finished ahead of Currie Star by a single goal in the Goals For column. They were then knocked out in the next round by Swedish side Kallerad SK by four goals to nil.
Chairman John Brock said: “The feedback from the coach was that the boys had a fantastic time. Our oldest group won their first two games in the group stage then lost the last one with the last kick of the ball which was a bit of a blow, because it meant they finished third. It was really draining for the players but the boys put as much as they could into it in terms of preparation and applying themselves.”
Hutchison Vale FC
Hutchison Vale also took part in the opening ceremony alongside Boroughmuir and are sure to remember the experience for a long time. The Edinburgh club sent one team to Gothenburg but will be pleased with their performance in the Gothia Cup. The 13s overcame German opponents Haltern Am See 3-0 in their opening fixture and followed it up with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Sweden’s IF Vaster. Their perfect record in the group stage continued in the third match when they narrowly defeated Norwegian outfit Stryn 2-1. In the knockout round they beat Sweden’s Norrkoping 1-0 thanks to a goal from Keir Brown but were then eliminated in the next round,
following a 7-1 defeat from England’s Lambeth Tigers.
Monifieth Athletic FC
The Under 13s were the club’s sole representatives at this year’s Gothia Cup. The Dundonian club faced defeat in each of their 3 group matches against Sweden’s Vasteras SK, Ordin FC from Brazil and Portuguese side Colegio Atlantico. After dropping into the B playoff, Monifieth defeated US team FC Conneticut. When the referee blew for full time the match remained goalless despite the Dundee side’s dominance, then Monifieth won the resulting shootout 4-2 to progress to the next round. They faced Footgeneration FA Algarve from Portugal and were beaten 3-0. The Portuguese side would go on to be the losing side in the cup final.
Andrew Mccafferty, coach, said: “I think we improved every game until the last half hour of our final game, when we just ran out of steam. I thought in the game against the Americans we were brilliant, we should have been out of sight by half time. Getting the boys to be brave on the ball like that in a tournament like the Gothia Cup is probably the biggest thing we can take away with us.” 
Tynecastle FC
Tynecastle sent one team for the Under 13s, 14s, 15s, and 16s and can look back on each of their records with great pride. Every team finished in the top two in their respective groups and recorded a number of impressive victories. The Under 13s overcame German opposition SV Rugenbergen 1-0 in their first knockout match before narrowly losing 3-2 to Prep School Lions from England. The 14s went one better, twice knocking out Swedish opposition with a 3-1 victory over Skoftebyns and a 6-0 thrashing of Tuff. In the next round they faced German side Niensteden and were beaten 3-0.
The 15s managed to score 13 goals in the group stage but were knocked out by CEF 18 Tucman from Argentina 4-2 on penalties after drawing 1-1. The 16s won all four of their group stage games, scoring 15 goals in the process. In the first knockout round they drew 1-1 with Portugal’s Almada Foot and lost the resulting penalty shootout 7-6. 
Friday, 28 July 2017 22:51

SPFL Hot Prospects: Kilmarnock

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Who is Scottish football’s next big thing? Who could be the next James McFadden or Andy Robertson? Here at Youth Football Scotland we’re casting our eye over the main SPFL teams to find just who’s on the cusp of breaking out, as the kick off to the 2017-18 league season edges ever closer.
Kilmarnock certainly pride themselves on providing a pathway for young footballers to break into the first team. Here is an insight into three of the Ayrshire side’s rising stars.
A product of the club’s youth system, 16-year-old Innes Cameron has bags of potential to make his mark on Scottish football. Fresh from sitting his Higher exams in May, Cameron, from Troon, was one of five academy products to recently sign a two-year modern apprenticeship with Killie. The striker broke onto the scene under the management of Lee Clark, and made his debut as a substitute in a 1-0 defeat to St Johnstone in December 2016. Having impressed for the Under 20s, the 6ft 2’ forward’s determined attitude earned Cameron a place on the bench 17 times, with the now permanent boss Lee McCulloch also showing faith in him. The former Marr College pupil was called up to the Scotland Under 17s to travel to Croatia for the European Championships, where he scored in a 2-0 victory over the Faroe Islands.
Speaking about the forthcoming season, Cameron told YFS: “Hopefully I will continue to be involved with the first team and learn from my experiences to improve the way I play.”
A more familiar name to the fans, Adam Frizzell is one of many other exciting prospects. Frizzell, from Gourock, has been on the scene since making his first appearance for the club in October 2015 against Inverness at Rugby Park. Born in January 22 1998, the 19-year-old is a dynamic, attacking midfielder who likes to get on the ball and pick that killer pass. He has made 19 first team appearances since his debut, and will hope to cement his starting place under McCulloch after impressing for Scotland Under 20s at the Toulon Tournament. Former Killie manager Clark said the one thing the youngster needed to add to his game was goals, and since his re-introduction to McCulloch’s side towards the end of the 16/17 season, he notched his first professional goal in a 3-1 defeat at Fir Park.
In Killie’s three Betfred Cup matches so far, Frizzell has operated in a central midfield position or just behind the striker. His trickery, neat footwork and ability to turn defence into attack has been obvious to see- Frizzell could be set for a terrific season.
Finally, Greg Taylor will play another key role for Killie, having secured his place at left back last season with number of consistent performances. Also from Gourock, Taylor attended Clydeview Academy, and featured in the school's 1-0 win over Mearns Castle High School in 2013 (http://www.youthfootballscotland.co.uk/component/content/article/1719-west-region-club-news/clydeview-academy-news/7121-clydeview-edge-to-paisley-schools-success.html). Taylor started his football career with St Andrews and then played with Frizzell for the Rangers youth set up, but both were snapped up by Killie’s academy following their release. Taylor was thrown in at the deep end by Clark in the Play-off Final versus Falkirk in only his second outing for the club, however the robust full back passed the test with flying colours and has gone from strength to strength.  Always looking to get forward, the pacey left back is an asset when attacking as well as defending. The 19-year-old claimed the fourth best player award at the Toulon Tournament, and scored the winner in a famous 1-0 win over Brazil.
It's also worth mentioning Greg Kiltie, who will be hoping to bounce back from a succession of injuries that have halted his progression from one of Killie's brightest prospects in years to a standout player for the Ayrshire side. After a long spell on the sidelines during the season, Kiltie was carted off against Ross County with a broken ankle in the final game of the campaign. The silky attacker, who started his career with Galston Boys Club before jumping between Rangers and Killie at Pro Youth level, was forced to miss the Toulon Tournament with the Scotland Under 20s this summer, but a chance meeting with Chelsea and Belgium star - and fellow crock - Eden Hazard provided a pick-me-up for his recovery. Kiltie told YFS: "I'm getting there, nearly back walking, just taking it day by day." 
Thursday, 27 July 2017 15:25

SPFL Hot Prospects: Hamilton Accies

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Who is Scottish football’s next big thing? Who could be the next James McFadden or Andy Robertson? Here at Youth Football Scotland we’re casting our eye over the main SPFL teams to find just who’s on the cusp of breaking out, as the kick off to the 2017-18 league season edges ever closer.
Here we look at two prospects from Hamilton Academical who have shown the early potential to kick on and make the season 2017-18 their year.
Hamilton Accies are a side who have used their youth system to great effect in recent history. Success stories like James McCarthy and James MacArthur have moved on to the English Premier League after being given the platform to prove themselves at a young age in South Lanarkshire. In the current team, captain Michael Devlin and playmaker Ali Crawford are a further example of youth products who have made the grade at professional level. 
Steven Boyd has grabbed his chance early on this season after some flashes of brilliance in the BetFred Cup. The 20-year-old came off the bench against Queen of the South on Saturday 22 July with 15 minutes remaining in the match poised at 0-0. With two minutes remaining, the youngster from Paisley scored his first professional goal for Hamilton and it looked as if Accies were claiming all three points before Queens equalised a minute later. Boyd converted his penalty in the shoot out that followed to help earn a bonus point for his side as they won 6-5. Having only amassed four starts for Accies so far, this could be the season where he announces himself on the big stage.
Boyd is equally as comfortable playing as an attacking midfielder or as the second striker. He spent the first half of last season on loan to Albion Rovers where he racked up five goals in 15 appearances including a brace against Airdrieonians in a 2-1 victory in the Monklands derby. Boyd was formerly on the books at Celtic and has picked up Scotland caps at Under 17 and Under 16 level.
Scott McMann played the full 90 minutes in Hamilton's last game against Queen of the South in the BetFred cup as well as starting their opening group game against East Kilbride. This proves he is held in high regard by Martin Canning and – although the 21-year-old spent three months on loan at Clyde last year – he is expected to be in the manager's plans at SuperSeal Stadium this season. The defender will look to add to the 29 starts he has already made at Accies since his breakthrough in 2012.
McMann's preferred position is at left back where he is renowned for venturing forward to assist the attack but not at the expense of his defensive duties. He has been known to deputise at centre half and may be asked to fill the void while captain Michael Devlin continues his recovery from a cruciate ligament injury in the early stages of the season.
Both youth prodigies will hope to make season 2017-18 one to remember for all the right reasons as Hamilton Academical bid to avoid the relegation battle and remain in the Scottish Premiership for a record fifth season in a row.
Wednesday, 26 July 2017 15:02

SPFL Hot Prospects: St Mirren

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Who is Scottish football’s next big thing? Who could be the next James McFadden or Andy Robertson? Here at Youth Football Scotland we’re casting our eye over the main SPFL teams to find just who’s on the cusp of breaking out, as the kick off to the 2017-18 league season edges ever closer.
Here, we provide some insight on the exciting prospects at St. Mirren.
During the 2013 League Cup winning season, St. Mirren had young academy players in their squad, even 18-year-old John McGinn started the final at Hampden and another youngster Kenny McLean was on the bench. Both went on to bigger things as McGinn won the Scottish Cup with Hibs and McLean is enjoying European success at Aberdeen.  St. Mirren take great pride in their youth system and have since produced players including Jason Naismith, Stevie Mallan and Kyle McAllister, with Naismith going to Ross County, and Mallan and McAllister off to the English Championship.
Lewis Morgan is just one start away from 50 starts for the club and managed to hit double figures for the first time in his career as he scored ten goals last season. There were fears that the 20-year-old pacy winger may have had his campaign cut short after suffering an ankle injury but recovered to make his Scotland Under 21 debut in a stalemate friendly with Estonia in the last few months of the campaign. St. Mirren also rejected two bids from English Championship side Burton Albion this summer. The former Rangers youngster has just one year remaining on his current contract. 
Kyle Magennis enjoyed an excellent breakthrough season after making his debut in just October 2016, coming on as a half time substitute in a defeat at Easter Road against Hibs. A local boy, Magennis starred for Paisley Grammar, winning the Scottish Shield in 2011 and several local cups during his time as a student. He first found the net for the Buddies at Queen of the South in Saints’ first league victory of the 2016-17 season on December 6 2016. The 19-year-old would go on to score another two goals. Magennis also represented the Scottish Under 20s at the recent summer Toulon Tournament. The midfielder will miss the beginning of the new league campaign due to knee ligament damage picked up in a pre season friendly against Dundee. The midfielder has gained a reputation as a powerful runner from the middle of the park. Having been used as an auxiliary right midfielder since his inclusion, the central midfielder who will have a chance of gaining a spot in his natural position given the sale of Stevie Mallan, but will miss the beginning of the new league campaign due to knee ligament damage picked up in a pre season friendly against Dundee.
Wednesday, 26 July 2017 11:50

SPFL Hot Prospects: St Johnstone

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Who is Scottish football’s next big thing? Who could be the next James McFadden or Andy Robertson? Here at Youth Football Scotland we’re casting our eye over the main SPFL team to find just who’s on the cusp of breaking out, as the kick off to the 2017-18 league season edges ever closer.
Here, we provide some insight on the exciting prospects at St Johnstone.
The Perth club have enjoyed tremendous success in recent years with qualification for the Europa League on a regular basis and lifting the club’s first major trophy in 2014. Manager Tommy Wright will look to continue the trend when their domestic season kicks off away to Kilmarnock on the August 5 and has included several youngsters in the first team squad.
Callum Hendry began his football career with Blackburn Rovers and featured regularly for the former English Champions Under 18 and Under 23 sides.  To aid his development, the striker – who is the son of former Scotland Captain Colin Hendry – was sent on loan to Stik League First Division North side Clitheroe where he scored on his debut in a 3-1 victory over Kendal Town en route to enjoying a promising spell. The 19-year-old suffered a knee injury towards the end of his time at Ewood Park and Hendry travelled north to be offered a trial at St Johnstone, through the contacts of assistant manager Callum Davidson.  Following an outing towards the end of a pre-season friendly with Aberdeen it was announced the Lytham St Annes born striker had agreed a one-year contract with the club.
Hendry grabbed his first goal for the Saints with a well taken finish during a 1-0 closed-door victory against Rangers and will hope it puts him in the frame for future appearances.
Kirkcaldy born right back Aaron Comrie joined the youth set up at St Johnstone following a spell in Celtic’s Under 17s squad in 2014. Having tasted action for the Under 20 development squads Comrie was loaned to League Two side Montrose where he made 21 appearances which included scoring the winner against East Stirling.  Having enjoyed a successful spell at Montrose, Comrie moved further up the East coast and began a loan spell at Peterhead in January 2017. The right back's impact was immediate as he helped the Blue Toon to a shutout against Brechin on his debut.  In total Comrie made 14 appearances for the club and will have greatly benefited from the competitive nature of League One.
It is clear St Johnstone rate the player highly and having made his first team debut in 1-1 draw away at Hamilton Tommy Wright told the Evening Telegraph: “Aaron was excellent after coming on, he’s been close to starting before and he did very well.”
Monday, 24 July 2017 14:44

SPFL Hot Prospects: Motherwell FC

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Who is Scottish football’s next big thing? Who could be the next James McFadden or Andy Robertson? Here at Youth Football Scotland we’re casting our eye over the main SPFL teams to find just who’s on the cusp of breaking out, as the kick off to the 2017-18 league season edges ever closer.
Here, we provide some insight on the exciting prospects at Motherwell FC.
A product of the Motherwell Academy, Ross Maclean was born on March 13 1997, the first example of two up-and-coming local talents. Maclean has made nine appearances for the first team, with eight of them coming in the previous season where he massively impressed with his dynamic and fearless style of play. The 20-year-old midfielder impressed so much that it earned him a new two-and-a-half-year deal with the club. Maclean will look to build on the success of the previous season and as he aims to feature regularly in the first team.
Another product of Motherwell’s youth setup, and perhaps a better known one, is Chris Cadden. The right winger had already made the breakthrough to the first team two seasons ago, but he became a real bright spot for the Lanarkshire side in what proved to be a rather lacklustre 2016/17 season.
Also born in Bellshill, Cadden made his Motherwell debut as a substitute in a 4-1 win over Hearts on March 1 2014. A year on from making his debut, he was then loaned out to Albion Rovers for the remainder of the 2014/15 season, which saw him score two goals in eight games. Cadden returned to Motherwell the following season where he made 21 appearances for the first team.
The 2016/17 season not only saw Cadden become a first team regular with 36 appearances, he also earned a call-up to the Scotland Under 21 squad where he made his debut against Ukraine. The midfielder will be looking to make the step up from young player to key man this season, and will continue to push for more opportunities at international level.

Youth Football Scotland: Website Photos 16/17 &emdash;

Premier League footballer and Northern Ireland international Gareth McAuley paid a visit to Hareleeshill Primary in Larkhall to launch Coerver Coaching’s new Partner School Programme.

The 37-year-old West Brom defender was put through his paces along with some pupils during a coaching session, before taking part in a question and answer session in front of the whole school.

The initiative will deliver weekly coaching sessions to every child from nursery to primary seven regardless of ability, and a further 21 selected pupils have joined the new School of Football which will provide them with three focused coaching sessions per week as well as ongoing mentoring.

McAuley was full of praise for the style of coaching the kids would now benefit from. He said: 'This Coerver scheme is a great thing, and a lot of top clubs in Europe have used it. It’s all with the ball and promotes development.

'It’s that fundamental ability to use the ball, ability to control the ball and manipulate it. It's stuff that they’ll take with them, stuff that will develop as they grow and move forward. It’s important to grasp that as early as possible and allow the kids to develop.'

In addition to the football-specific benefits of Coerver Coaching, the scheme aims to develop pupils' communication, concentration, confidence, co-operation, and self-control. Kevin Kearney, leading the programme on behalf of the school, said: 

'The Scottish Attainment Challenge funding has given us the opportunity to provide school wide sports coaching of the highest quality which many of our pupils would have difficulty accessing. 

'The funding also gives us the opportunity to engage children in learning using this different approach to meet their needs.

'Children have the opportunity to develop footballing skills, life skills and recognise that hard work and commitment has its rewards’. 

Joe Jones, Coerver Coaching Scotland Technical Director, said: 'We are delighted to be working with Hareleeshill Primary School. 

'Coerver Coaching has been committed to developing life skills in young people since we started in 1984. This partnership gives us a real opportunity to help contribute to making a difference to the lives of the young players involved, alongside improving their football ability'.

Coerver has worked with the French and Brazilian football federations over their 33-year history and with clubs such as Real Madrid, Arsenal and Manchester United, and one of their current Partner clubs is Rangers.

If anyone playing in Scottish football right now is best placed to give advice to youngsters starting out in the game, it’s Kenny Miller. The Rangers’ striker has been a standout performer at Ibrox this season at the tender age of 37, out-shining many players over ten years his junior.
He has forged a long career which has seen him play for Rangers and Celtic, as well as in the English Premier League for both Wolves and Derby County. He has had the enviable experience of plying his trade abroad and learning different football cultures thanks to spells at Bursaspor and Vancouver White Caps.
He has won trophies, scored important goals (ten in Old Firm Derbies) and represented his country 69 times, netting 18 goals in the process.
But Miller- like everyone else- started with his local team playing with his friends.
“I started out in the game when my friend that I grew up with, his dad managed Edina Hibs, so I started there and then I moved on to the local team Musselburgh Union, where I’m from,” Miller said.
“Then I went to Hutchie (Hutchison Vale), and I was with them until I was 15. Then a pro-league started with Rangers, Hearts, Hibs, Celtic etcetera and I left to go and play for Hibs in that league. Then I moved onto full-time after that, so I spent the majority of my time at Hutchie,” he added.
Miller was not the only one from Hutchie at that time to make it either, with team-mates Gary Mason and Steven Hampshire making moves to England in their youth, and both returning to play for Dunfermline and other clubs in Scotland.
“There were loads of lads who played who went on to play at a decent level, some lower to be fair, but a lot of lads I played against too went on and had careers.”
However, few would make it as far as Miller in the game, and he believes part of this is down to the coaching he received whilst at Hibs from Donald Park.
Park is currently the head of coach education at the Scottish FA and has been assistant manager and youth coach at a number of Scottish sides including Hibs, Hearts and Inverness CT.
Miller said: “I was pretty much working with Donald from about 12 to 20 and to this day he is still one of the best coaches I’ve worked with. He was very good with the young lads, it was a great grounding and education in what it takes to be a footballer, the dedication, and the sacrifice that needs to be made.
“He was huge but really tough on us but we learned quickly and as I said he is one of the best coaches I have worked with. A lot of the stuff that’s in me has come from him.”
But as well as the influence of youth coaches Miller is of the mind that there is no substitute for hard work and self-discipline, qualities he has carried through his career.
“If you’re going to have a long career it goes without saying that you need to look after yourself, you need to stay fit and eat right and live right.
“One thing I’ve taken is that you need to try to be your best every day, learn every day and there are sacrifices that need to be made, you need to dedicate yourself to make it.
“Once you’re taken on full-time that’s not you made it, once you’ve made your debut for the first team that’s not you made it. It’s hard to get there, but it’s harder to stay there. You need to stay dedicated and you need to stay focussed and there’s a lot of sacrifice that needs to be made to make it and stay in the game.”
Coming from a man with four Scottish Premier League titles, two Scottish Cups, a League Cup and an SPL Golden Boot- it’s not bad advice.
Media reports this week suggest the Scottish FA are to bring Belgian football development specialists Double Pass on board in a bid to ensure that the ambitious Project Brave is delivered effectively. 
The advisory group, whose current clients include the German FA, the English Premier League and the Bundesliga have a track record of delivering positive results in the field of youth development. The Scottish FA will be hoping that their help will assist new Performance Director Malky Mackay in improving the youth game. 
Project Brave is the latest programme of improvement from Scottish FA working groups and includes a number of changes to shake up youth academy football in Scotland. These changes include the re-introduction of the reserve league, a winter futsal league for players under the age of 16 and a radical reduction in the number of academy players from 2300 to around 1200. 
In 2010 they asked former First Minster Henry McLeish to draft a report on the state of the game in Scotland. The first part of his review included 54 recommendations, from the introduction of a winter break to the investment of up to £500m in the grassroots game. Some of these recommendations have since been implemented and some have not. 
Interestingly, one of McLeish’s recommendations was “to achieve more accountability, responsibility and transparency for youth development.” Could this have anything to do with the employment of a set of experts who have been tasked with doing almost exactly that six-and-half-years later? Probably, but better late than never, eh?
Of the 42 ‘professional’ clubs in Scotland there are 29 youth academies, many with different approaches and philosophies. They all have one thing in common – each receives money from the Scottish FA and SPFL to dedicate to the progression of their young players. 
The governing bodies have of course got their own benchmarking and quality control measures to ensure that this money is being spent as it should, but the fact Double Pass is being brought on board would suggest quality control is an area where further progression is required. 
Double Pass will be tasked with regularly auditing performance academies to ensure that they are meeting the standards set by Project Brave. One Scottish FA source told the Sunday Mail that it was the “football equivalent of having your accounts audited.”
The hiring of an external organisation is key in moving away from the predispositions of many who feel that self-interest is the driving force to what the Scottish FA and its clubs do with regards to youth development. 
Project Brave will set out what it wants clubs to do and Double Pass, along with Malky Mackay and his staff, will ensure that it is being carried out effectively and efficiently. 
Sceptics will say that this is another fad. The same people will also probably tell you that the McLeish report was a waste of time and that we shouldn’t have bothered with the introduction of Performance Schools.
It is often hard to be positive about Scottish football given what’s gone on in the past, but the fact that the Scottish FA have listened to advice and reached out for help means that they are making progress off the pitch as well as on it.
With a company as well renowned as Double Pass on board to improve the youth game the least we can do is give them a chance to do their job, and to do it properly. 
“We need to get the experts in” is often the shout after another failed qualifying campaign or disappointing international result. Well, the “experts” are in – let’s see how they get on.
Allana Grant meets the people behind a groundbreaking and inspiring team.
Having recently moved to their winter training facility, the players and coaches from Syngenta Juveniles’ cerebral Palsy team’s minds have inevitably turned to the club’s first ever competitive match which will take place this coming February .
When the Dyes welcome Chadderton Park FC, another CP outfit based in Oldham, to Little Kerse in the new year, they will mark perhaps the greatest milestone in the team’s history to date.
A  history of a mere Four and a half years, but one which has seen the team go from strength to strength; celebrating an SFA award, and regularly welcoming youngsters from all over Scotland to play under the Syngenta banner.
In 2011 Syngenta Juveniles as a club embarked on a process of restructuring and modernisation.
“The one thing we didn’t have,” explains CP team coach Kevin McGuire, “was a disability presence. There was no provision in any way for kids with a disability to play football in a team setup. This was something we really wanted to expand in to.”
Taking their lead from a colleague involved with CP football in Manchester, Syngenta coaches staged events in the local area in an attempt to gage interest. From the outset, children and parents received the initiative with great enthusiasm, and the Cerebral Palsy team was founded shortly after.
It wasn’t long before they made their mark on youth football in Scotland either, achieving the prestigious SFA Disability club status in 2014. Coaching staff and players worked tirelessly, with this goal in mind, to sustain high attendance levels and increase the team’s training sessions to two a month, so there was understandable delight when the SFA recognised their efforts with the award.
“We wanted first and foremost to make provision for disabled kids to play football, so we were immensely proud to have done that and to have gotten the inclusive award was a huge bonus,” said Kevin.
Maintaining high attendance levels proved pivotal to their achievement in 2014, and the squad has continued to strengthen in the two years since. Participants at training sessions now regularly reach the mid –twenties, girls as well as boys aged six to sixteen, and Numbers also include former squad members, who have taken on the mantel of coaches.
“We get Kids coming from everywhere,” Kevin explains with pride. “Although we are based in Grangemouth, I’d say we are pretty much a national club.”
Laterally, with the CP team having become such an established presence, focus has turned in earnest to bringing a competitive element to their play. This is a task which is proving to be no mean feat as Syngenta currently boasts the only CP setup at club level in Scotland.
Coaches have had to look to England to find competition. Oldham side Chadderton Park FC will provide Syngenta with their first real test when they travel up to Scotland in February.
Kevin is delighted to have secured this fixture for his side, intimating that introducing the competitive element will have a hugely positive effect on the way they approach the game of football:
“It’s fine playing against each other in training, but this will bring the competitive edge the kids need. Training sessions will now be specifically geared towards this fixture. We will start to think more about game play: players taking up actual positions rather than focussing solely on skill development as we have been doing. We need to take things on to the next level.”
So, Syngenta’s boys and girls have their game faces well and truly on. Although there is around three months still to go, the prospect of a first competitive match has already done much to boost the team’s morale, as player/coach Aiden Logan tells me: “We can't wait until February! It really gives us all something to train towards.”
In addition to all the excitement surrounding the game itself, there is also a great sense of optimism pervading the air. Optimism that this friendly match could provide the motivation needed to properly kick-start CP club football in Scotland.
National CP squad coach, David Mcardle, was instrumental in trying to get a Pan disability League off the ground a few years ago, but a lack of participants thwarted his efforts.
The feeling is that, in light of Syngenta’s achievements, and after a hugely successful Paralympic games, the time could be right to try again however.
“I know it is something we’ve not managed before but even if we got together five or six teams to form a kind of league, it would be great. Even supposing we could arrange matches every month or couple of months. There would be a proper element of structure.”
Aiden also sees no reason why this shouldn’t be the case: “If national CP teams can compete in tournaments why can't there be the same kind of structure for CP club football.”
Whatever the potential ramifications of February’s fixture though, one thing definitely on the cards, is the road trip down to Oldham for the return leg against Chadderton. The date hasn’t beenAnchor confirmed yet, but fundraising is already under way, and I am assured that it will be one almighty party from start to finish. I wonder if Kevin might squeeze me on to the team bus?
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