South West Region (171)
The founder of Ayr-based football club Valspar FC, Jim Gourlay, received his well-deserved place on the Queen's honours list this year. Jim now joins the ranks of Scottish Football legends who have also received this accolade such as Ally Mcoist, Gordon Strachan, and Sir Alex Ferguson.
The club was founded in 1976 by Jim who had no prior experience, just a love for the game and a desire to give young men in his own town of Ayr an outlet and purpose.From 1976 to 2019 Valspar teams have travelled to countries as far and wide as Canada, America, Norway, Sweden and many others. In the early 1990s Jim took a team that won the Austria cup having previously won the Scottish cup.
Jim has spent his career as both chairman and president of the club, as well as scouting for teams like Liverpool and Ayr United. During his tenure at Liverpool Football Club, Jim was responsible for the scouting of 1988 FWA Player of the Year Steve Nicol. As well as this, he was involved in the early recruitment of John Barnes and Emile Heskey.
Perhaps his biggest recent achievement was, whilst scouting for Ayr United, he spotted a young left sided player by the name of Andy Robertson, who you may remember lifting the Champions League trophy in June.
Jim Gourlay’s recognition comes well earned, his role within Scottish Football has been pivotal for years and something for everyone with a passion for football to look up to.
(Bonnyton Thistle 2002s, who recently won the Central Ayrshire Youth FA David McNaught Cup)
Bonnyton Thistle FC from Kilmarnock will have a senior team on the field next season, after the club’s application to join the South of Scotland Football League was approved.
The move will also see the Ayrshire club set up an Under 20s team, which will play in the Scottish Lowland League Under 20s Development League, which kicks off in late July.
The club, which has been a regular fixture in Scottish Youth FA Cup finals in recent years, are now officially part of the SFA pyramid system for Scottish football, with the South of Scotland League making up the sixth tier. Promotion from there leads to the Lowland League, which in turn provides the possibility of football in SPFL League Two.
The senior side will be managed by former Kilmarnock player Alan Robertson, who also took the Under 20s side at the club and was in charge of its academy. His assistant will be ex-Killie striker and youth coach Paul Wright.
Current Bonnyton coaches Ian Higgins and Neil Wilson will head up the Under20s side along with Graeme Neil, who joins the club after stints with Annbank Juniors and Ayr United. Higgins and Wilson have not only been involved in the club’s recent cup successes but were pivotal in securing a new 3G facility for the club, in the Townholm area of Kilmarnock, which allows them to fill the league’s contractual obligations for the season ahead.
Teams that have followed a similar path from youth to senior football include Cumbernauld Colts and East Kilbride FC, the latter of whom played Celtic in the Scottish Cup in February this year.
It takes a lot of qualities and characteristics to get through the entire league season without losing a single match; determination, consistency, team spirit and a never-say-die attitude, and those traits are something AC Irvine Under 14s have displayed in abundance throughout the 2015/16 season.
Seeing off their nearest challengers Vaspar FC by 11 points and Larg Colts by 14 points, Irvine stormed their way to the Central Ayrshire League title, scoring 161 goals along the way, with 25 of those strikes coming from main man Blair Craig.
However, halfway through the season and cruising, Irvine faced a huge dilemma. When Kilmarnock FC offered Craig the chance to go pro youth it was an opportunity he was never going to turn down. Losing their top scorer could have proved to be such a large bow in their title hopes. However, they had Jonny Irvine to step in and fill his boots.
Half a season and 30 goals later, Irvine finished as the team’s top scorer after missing the opening few matches of the season.
One characteristic which defines an unbeaten team is the willingness to fight to the end and refusal to accept defeat. This is perhaps the reason behind Irvine’s successes, with late goals coming against both Largs and Rosebank to keep the run going being particular highlights.
One moment in the season which defined this team of warriors was in late February, 2-0 down against Galston YFC, many teams would have given up and accepted that it wasn’t to be their day. Irvine are not one of those teams. They fought back, and hit Galston with four goals to run out 4-2 winners, preserving their unbeaten record from an unlikely position. This result highlighted the ability that Irvine possess, with other high points such as their convincing wins against Galston and Glenburn, displaying the ruthlessness and goals within the side. Ultimately, their tendency to find the back of the net with almost ease was the key component in their fantastic invincible season.
One of the main reasons that Irvine have been so successful is their results against fellow title challengers, picking up all 12 points available against Vaspar and Larg Colts, who finished 2nd and 3rd respectively. Despite the points gap, manager Chris Carruthers told Youth Football Scotland that the title race was a lot tougher than people may have thought. He said: “The league was a lot closer than it looked in my opinion as our boys were starting to feel the pressure of clinging on to our unbeaten record. With that in mind, we knew our last two games were against Valspar, who finished 2nd and Largs Colts, who finished 3rd.”
He added: “I said earlier in the season that it looked like everyone in CAYFA league could take points off one another and it certainly proved to be the case.”
Congratulations to AC Irvine Under 14s, unbeaten Central Ayrshire league champions for 2015/16!