The 2015/16 season will see Currie Star and Heriot-Watt team up at under-19 level for the first time although the partnership has been running for a few years previously. Currie Star have been competing with an under-17 team but there have been a few issues managing the jump in level up to the Heriot-Watt under-20s. This new merger looks to address some of these problems and try and create a smooth transition between the different age groups.
Chris Sellar, chairman of Heriot-Watt University Football Club said of the merger: "Both clubs have been in partnership for a few years now, however we have found the jump from Currie under-17s into Heriot-Watt 20s, who play in East of Scotland/ Lowland Leagues 20s, has proven to be slightly too big. Going in partnership on a joint under-19s team reduces that jump and makes for a more complete player pathway."
The jump in question currently sees players aged 17 come from leagues of players the same age into a different league system where they are potentially playing against players up to three years older.
This can be a huge gulf and understandably players can become disillusioned with the game at a time where their development is at its most important. This merger could provide a solid link between the under-17s and under-20s and help players acclimatise to the older age groups whilst keeping both clubs competitive at both levels.
The two clubs felt that the move to form a joint under-19 team was an easy decision to make according to Sellar: “It was actually the logical step to go. We have a great admiration for John Brock (chairman of Currie Star Football Club) and everything he is trying to achieve with a number of good people who share their passion for developing people and footballers. The players will benefit from playing at some of best facilities in Scotland at Heriot-Watt and Balerno. It will also allow Heriot-Watt to develop our own young recruits within a safer environment before jumping into the under-20s and then hopefully onto the East of Scotland first team, rather than going straight into amateur football if there is no space in the under-20s squad."
One of the other advantages of developing the joint under-19 team is that the university opens up to the local community to a greater extent than before. The facilities at Heriot-Watt University are excellent and it is a mark of the commitment to the local clubs that these facilities are available for use.
"The motives to Heriot-Watt are to increase our talent pool and to have some influence on their development to ultimately increase performance of our weekend teams. There is also a selflessness in supporting the local community. We don’t want to open our doors to anyone but we want to be a bit more open in providing more and better opportunities to people within our wider community," Sellar said.
"I think it is vital that players are able to pick up a ball through our partners at Play 2 Learn at four years of age and are able to develop through to potentially East of Scotland senior football, without having to move out their local area. With Oriam, Scotland’s National Performance Centre, coming to the University we are blessed with superb local facilities and we intend to maximise these for the benefit of local clubs as part of a partnership approach to football provision.
"Paul McGovern, who has taken the Currie Star under-17s up to under-19s has done a fantastic job with that team and through his coaching ability will create a stimulating and positive environment for existing Currie Star players and the influx of Heriot-Watt students. Our only expectations we would want to see fulfilled is that the players have fun, develop their footballing ability and people skills and have a sense of belonging to both Currie Star and Heriot-Watt and what we are collectively trying to achieve. Long term, we hope this becomes the norm for both clubs."
Playing their home games at the new 3G pitch in Balerno and splitting training between Heriot-Watt and Balerno, the initiative is looking to not only provide a platform to reduce the jump between under-17 and under-20 but it is hoping to promote an encouraging atmosphere and most of all a place to enjoy playing football.