From playing keepy-ups with his son in the park to co-ordinating 47 coaches in charge of over 200 kids, Billy McNaught and Budhill Football Academy have come a long way in two short years. “It was a bombardment of parents” says McNaught, the club's chairman and head coach, who started by letting one boy play with him and his son Lewis and ended up getting his coaching badges so he could properly train the avalanche of children who just kept coming back.
Based in the East End of Glasgow, the set-up now takes kids from age two right up to fourteen, both boys and girls, to play football in tournaments and competitions across the country. Budhill is more than just your typical football club however. McNaught is determined to make them a community institution that provides help and support in a deprived area.
“We’re working quite heavily with Active East at the Wellhouse Hub in Easterhouse and did a 10-week programme with them. We’ve also done a six-week programme at Bannerman High School over the summer as well as the Alexandra Festival and the Auchinlea Festival. It’s about us saying ‘This is us, we’re here. Bring your boys and lassies here and we’ll train them.’”
A strict disciplinarian, McNaught does not stand for any bullying at the club - from either the children or the parents - and has introduced an innovative yellow and red card scheme for adults on the sidelines at matches to deter them from shouting. “'Let the coaches coach' is what we say, so any of the coaches in the vicinity can walk up to a parent that’s yelling and tell them to calm their jets, otherwise it’s a yellow card and if he carries on it’s another yellow card and they have to leave and they have to take their child with them.”
With all of the coaching staff at Budhill volunteers, it’s a sign of the respect Billy believes they deserve. “People forget how much time a coach puts into qualified and they start ripping them to shreds on a Saturday afternoon, so that’s why there’s rules at this club and we’re quite strict.” There’s even a curfew of 8.30pm on all communication with coaching staff from parents so they can enjoy their evenings in peace.
Amongst all the work being done by Budhill, their work with the disabled is the most inspiring. The first youth club in Scotland to have teams for primary school children with learning difficulties, they are currently trying to expand from their current two schools, Croftcoign and Hampden Primary, to create a mini-league for four teams. “We have them playing alongside our mainstream kids on Saturdays and it helps break down barriers” said McNaught. “We found that as soon you put down two sets of goals with a ball in the middle, as long as they know where to score they just go for it”.
The club receives help and communicates regularly with the SFA on the best ways to work with the disabled kids. McNaught particularly praises David McArdle, the SFA’s Disability Development Officer, for his help.
“He introduced a foam ball which helps one of the boys who when he puts his foot on top of the ball it sinks in, and then when his muscles relax it brings it back up again and makes his top-tap easier to do. It’s the wee things like that that builds up the club for me and, to be honest with you, it’s brilliant. I absolutely love it and I love watching my own boy play.”
His "own boy" is Lewis, a central midfielder and captain of the 2003 side that have just made the step up to competitive 11-a-side football. To prepare, the boys took a pre-season trip to Sunderland where Lewis got among the goals but his dad, and coach, admits they found it challenging to come to grips with the changes from non-competitive sevens.
Lewis said: “The pre-season didn’t go exactly great and the boys were still trying to find their feet but we had a great result at the weekend beating Larkhall Thistle. It took them long enough to get it but eventually they just started playing.”
Lewis got a hat-trick in that game and he is confident about his chances of adding to that tally, saying he “wants a hat-trick in every game” although the part of the game he enjoys most is “getting to control the players all over the park”.
Having been with his Dad from the start of this journey, Lewis is full of praise for his coaching and the way his dad has picked up new techniques, particularly a spell at Hartlepool where they enjoyed the training and Billy has developed it into what they do at Budhill.
Both the McNaughts are excited and optimistic about the season ahead. Billy believes that getting that first win has made the boys hungry for more and the ever-confident Lewis thinks they’ll “win the league easy”, picking out his teammates Josh up front and James in goals as the key players.
It’s a big season for Budhill on all fronts but their community work is doing plenty to prove there’s more to a football club than just winning on the pitch.