Features & Blogs (122)
In a hectic week for Scottish football, both on and off the field, here are some of the exciting new stories you may have missed from YFS.
1. New Pathways -
Scottish Lowland league side Caledonian Braves have announced a new pathway for players with two new squads.
An under-16 side will participate in the Lanarkshire FDA league, and an under-19 squad will play in the Central Scotland FA league.
Both clubs will share resources with the Lowland League first team. It is hoped the new additions to the Braves family will give young players from youth football a pathway to senior football.
2 - Future Pro USA News -
There will be another Pro USA event for the 2020-21 season in October, taking place at the Spartans Academy in Edinburgh.
The programme allows young aspiring Scottish footballers to travel to the US and combine their academic studies with playing high level "soccer" in the American college system.
The programme continued to run this summer, despite the ongoing global pandemic, and saw scores of Scots jet off stateside - including Scotland age-grade star Aisha Maughan.
The event is free but spaces are limited - you can reserve your place by clicking here.
3 - Germany Holiday!
Heads were turned last summer when Celtic academy youngster Liam Morrison moved to Bavaria to join German giants Bayern Munich - and now, the centre-back will have a familiar face in training.
Midfielder Barry Hepburn has followed Morrison's route, leaving Lennoxtown for south-east Germany, joining the Champions League winners' youth team.
It is hoped he will have a similar impact to Morrison, who has established his place in Martin Demichelis' under-19 side.
And Hepburn could still be joined by another Scot - Hearts' left-back Aaron Hickey, who has been linked with Hansi Flick's side. The youngster is also being chased by Italian side Bologna, who have made an official approach.
4 - Return to Football -
We were all hit hard with the cancellation of football, both youth and professional due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, teams from the Aberdeen area have had to endure difficult circumstances compared to other youth clubs. After an outbreak of Covid-19 resurged in Aberdeen, all youth football in the area had to be cancelled.
So, it was great to see a positive return for Dyce Boys Club 2010, who took part in a seven aside bounce game. A lot of entertaining football and show and great to see the youth teams in Aberdeen back playing.
5 - Munro makes Pro bow -
Congratulations to 18-year-old Kyle Munro who made his debut for Hamilton on Saturday against Rangers.
Replacing fellow 18-year-old Reece Mimnaugh, it was great to see Hamilton’s extensive youth academy having an impact on their first team squad.
Despite the 2-0 defeat it was clear that Hamilton is investing heavily in their youth setup with fellow Academy graduates Shaun Want, Scott McMann and Andrew Winter all starting, and Jamie Hamilton coming off the bench.
Almost every Scottish football fan now knows the name Lawrence Shankland after his success at Ayr and Dundee United earned him a Scotland shirt.
The 25-year-old striker has once again been called up to Steve Clarke's Scotland squad, having previously won two caps and scored one goal.
Add to that impressive resumé a Scottish Championship title, a Scottish League One title, a PFA Scotland’s Players’ Player of the Year for League One in the 2017/18 season award, and a SPFL Top Goalscorer in 2019/20 award - it's not a bad trophy room in the Shankland household.
He is now in the Scottish Premiership for the second time in his career, this time with United where he wants to prove he can compete at the highest level.
At the weekend, whilst recovering from injury, Shankland discussed the side to his career that many people aren’t aware of - his youth career - on the 'Bishy PE podcast'. This podcast episode was hosted by two teachers in the PE department and an S6 student of Bishopbriggs Academy.
Lawrence was born in August 1995, in Glasgow, and mentioned his first footballing experience: “I started at Baillieston Juniors. I only played there for a few months and then the Hearts scout was at one of my games so I ended up going and training with them for about six months to a year.
"Then I ended up going through the Academy when I was turning eight until I was 12/13."
He spoke about his time training with Rangers, as he was playing games at the weekend with Queen's Park which he mentioned was “like a loan deal”.
After a few months of being with both teams, he was released by Rangers and stuck with the Spiders until he made the first team in 2012. During this period he also represented his country, appearing for the Scottish Schools FA's squad in the Centenary Shield.
Speaking about school he said: “I enjoyed times of it… You don’t realise until you were older how good it was, you probably wish you could go back and do things a bit different but it was an enjoyable time for me."
He mentioned that he stayed on until fifth year and then left around the same time he made his Queens Park first-team debut. He thanked a PE teacher at his high school for giving him football advice and says he still keeps in touch with him, as well as other teachers, up to this day.
At the end of his first season playing part-time with Queen's Park and working part-time at a local factory, he decided he “wanted to play football full-time at the end of that season as there was a bit of interest”.
After leaving Queen's Park he went on to sign for Aberdeen in 2013, where he was sent out on loan to several Scottish clubs, he only spent 18 months in Aberdeen and the rest of the time he was out on loan, getting experience and game time.
When his time with Aberdeen came to an end, Shankland admitted that he “found himself out of the game for a while”. The time between Aberdeen and Ayr United was around three months but he admitted later on that this was one of the toughest points in his career.
He felt that he repaid Ayr United after they “took a chance” on him by leading them to win League 1, getting promoted to the Championship and then finishing in a playoff spot in the following year. Over his two-year spell with Ayr, Shankland scored 50 goals in 61 appearances.
Towards the end of the interview, he was questioned about the keys to success in a team. “Having quality in your squad and believing in what you’re trying to do," he said, "you just have to remember what the focus is and what you’re aiming for."
Finally, he advised young footballers trying to make it, adding: “Hard work and attitude is half of the battle.
"If you have quality and your talent is there then that will eventually come through and you’ll be able to show what levels you can get to but the biggest thing for me was just knuckling down and working hard.
"You just need to commit to what you want to do if you want to be successful and do everything you can to make yourself better. If people are willing to give you advice they’re always giving you that to make you better.”
You can view the entire podcast episode on YouTube using the link below: https://youtu.be/rRbGe09Q-K8
In a hectic week for Scottish football, both on and off the field, here are some of the exciting new stories you may have missed from YFS.
1) Breakthrough – Former Newcraighall Leith Vics and Tynecastle FC striker John Robertson has broken into the St Johnstone first team squad. A favourite of recently departed manager Tommy Wright, Robertson will be one for the future for the Saints.
He spent last season on loan at League Two champions Cove Rangers, scoring on one occasion. After impressing on loan, the 18-year-old will be challenging for a place in the Premiership outfit this season. Perhaps one to keep an eye out for in our Hot Prospect series...
2) States Scholarships - Good luck to both James Baxter and Joe McInnes who will be representing Scotland across the pond. The duo are travelled to St Louis Missouri to join the new teammates in the NJCAA program East Central College on Thursday.
The program allows young aspiring Scottish players to travel to the US to combine their academic studies with playing high level football for an American college. We wish them all the best in their journey and in the future. If you wish to follow in their footsteps fill out the form on the YFS website!
Joe is no stranger to YFS - having studied in our Journalism & Media course earlier this year during the pandemic!
3) Returning to training – Edinburgh City FC , Edina Hibs, EK Burgh United, Dryburgh Athletic. Yet more teams have returned to training after the long absence due to the coronavirus pandemic, following the governments easing of lockdown measures. More teams are returning to non-contact training hoping to return to league football as soon as possible.
5) Scots abroad – Finally, Scottish striker Ewan Urain Roy Aird, has begun training with the Athletico Bilbao first team squad. The 20 year old has scored three times in six appearances for the Athletico Bilbao B side in the Segunda División B.
The lanky striker was born in nearby Durango, to a Scottish mother, which may well be a stroke of luck given Athletic's policy to bring through local Basque players from the surrounding area. In fact, since 1912 the club has only played players deemed to be Basque. The criteria has been both applauded and criticised, but either way it offers a chance for a potential Scot to play in La Liga.
Although he may not quite be on Steve Clarke's radar just yet, if the 6'3" striker (known locally as Ewan Urain) keeps impressing Joseba Etxeberria he may just be in line for a debut this season. He has already impressed in the youth ranks, scoring 11 goals during the 17-18 season for the under-18s and 13 goals for Basconia during the 18-19 season.
Basconia are one of Athletic's feeder teams and they play in the fourth tier of Spanish football. He graduated to the B team in the 19-20 season, scoring three goals in six appearances.
The Ross County back-line looks completely different to the one that kept them up last season. Now, they have one of their own in defence - Josh Reid.
Born in 2002, Josh is just 18 but already has already started all five games this season for the Dingwall side.
The youngster joined the club academy at the age of eight and a decade on he has become the team’s first-choice left-back, following the departure of Sean Kelly from the club.
Not only that, but he’s started the new season strongly, helping County gain seven points from the first five games of the season.
In the team’s two wins, Josh has shown great ability and maturity beyond his years to keep attackers at bay.
Although unable to get into games, fans are excited by what they see in their new local talent. Many have taken to social media to comment on his dribbling ability and strong physical presence on the pitch from what they’ve seen so far and many County faithful are getting very excited by the brilliant prospect they have in their ranks.
“His pace is just electric and he looks like he can be amazing. We are all definitely hopeful as to if he can match the hype around him so far,” were the comments of one excitable Staggies fan.
Their views were backed up by former youth team-mate Logan Ross – a man who relied on Josh playing well in front of him.
The under-18 goalkeeper told YFS: “His ability is insane. He can do whatever he wants on the pitch because he’s so composed, brave and outgoing on and off the ball.
“I’d say journeys like his, with the team, are the reason that I have been inspired not to give up on what I want to do in life and play for this club”
Indeed, it seems that Josh’s journey is inspiring many youngsters at the club. Under-16 midfielder William Urquhart agreed: “I would love to have a rise to the top like Josh has, but that can only be done through hours of extra hard work over the years”.
Youth players can certainly take inspiration from Josh’s journey at Ross County – it’s the dream to follow in those kinds of footsteps and go from boy to man at your local club.
Looking ahead to the future, Scotland fans might be left groaning at another promising player coming through at left-back as opposed to other positions. However, Staggies fans are already confident that Reid can at least emulate the current incumbents of the number three shirt – Andy Robertson and Kieran Tierney.
For now, Josh will be hoping to get a call up to play in the upcoming under-19 internationals for Billy Stark’s Scotland team.
Although only five games into the season, we have already seen flashes of who could be one of the turning forces in Scottish footballs exciting new wave of youth football.
Many will hope young Reid can reach his full potential and excel be one of the stars of the Scottish game in seasons to come.
In a year which has been full of problems and difficulties for clubs, it is amazing to see those who will be the stars of tomorrow getting the chance to shine for their teams.
You may think of the name Robinson when thinking of Motherwell – due to manager Stephen - but you are probably unlikely to have heard about his son Harry, who recently made his SPFL debut for the Lanarkshire outfit. Euan Wood reports.
Harry was born in September 2000 in Preston, but grew up in Northern Ireland and was born into a footballing family. His father had previously being on the books of Premier League giants Tottenham and (then lower-league) Bournemouth as a player, and has since gone on to manage at Oldham as well as the Steelmen.
Therefore, it is no surprise that Harry has aspired to follow in his dad’s footsteps.
Harry is versatile midfielder, who can play on either wing, and can take the ball under pressure and can help link up the play. His passing ability is a key part of his game and he can press the full backs and setting up players in the box.
His professional career began at 16-years-old when he signed for Oldham and he made his debut at 18. However, his playing time was somewhat limited with the turbulent circumstances at the club. Having several manager changes in such a short space of time, Harry couldn’t find a consistent place in the first team squad.
Internationally, he has made several appearances in the Northern Ireland youth setup and has scored four times across the under-16, under-19 and under-21 teams. He has yet to make a first team international appearance, but the winger is certainly one for the future.
Speaking to Motherwell media Harry said: “I moved over when I was 16, made my debut just as I turned 18 but then I had about eight different managers, so it was hard. You get in with one manager then he would be gone.”
To gain some valuable game time Harry took a loan spell back to Belfast to play with Crusaders for three months. After playing ten times for the Northern Irish side, Harry returned to Oldham before being released from his contract.
Following his departure from Oldham, Harry signed for Motherwell on deadline day in January after he impressed the club by scoring against Morton while on trial.
Despite the expected scepticism being the managers son, Harry made it clear he joined the club for the coaching and because of the size of the club - not because his dad’s the manager.
“It wasn’t anything to do with my dad that made me come here. It was just the fact that it’s a good club.
“I trained in a mix between the reserves and the first team every day and played all the games for the reserves, so it was good because I hadn’t played in months.”
Since the return of football following the coronavirus pandemic Harry has been training everyday with the first team squad. His addition to the first team has been pushing other wingers for their place in the starting eleven.
Having experienced predominantly youth football in the opening of his career, Harry’s move to Motherwell has shown his ambition to play with the first team in front of crowds.
“I want to be playing every week, whether that’s here or going on loan first to come back to be a first team Motherwell player.
“I just want to play in front of crowds. I want to establish myself as a first team player now.”
Harry will have tough competition this season but looks set to be one of the SPFL’s next top
prospects. He will have to compete with fellow wingers Jermaine Hylton, Sherwin Seedorf (a distant relative to the famous Clarence) and the returning Jake Hastie who is on loan back to Motherwell from Rangers.
Despite having a slow start to the 2020/21 campaign, Motherwell still look even stronger than they have in recent seasons. They’ve made nine additions to the squad, including Scotland international and former Kilmarnock right-back Stephen O’Donnell.
After poor performances against Ross County, Dundee United and Livingston, frustrated manager Stephen Robinson made his feelings known.
“I have been patient with players but some of them were told tonight in no uncertain terms we are playing with seven men each week.”
“That won’t keep happening.”
Robinson’s furious response clearly merited a reaction, as the team dominated unbeaten Hibs and were unlucky not to take all three points having a goal disallowed in the first half. If Motherwell can replicate this type of performance on a consistent basis, they look well placed to have another successful season.
(Quotes and image taken from Motherwell FC's website.)
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: