One of Scottish football’s most well-known clubs has launched an official youth academy for the first time in their history.
Clydebank FC, of the West Super League Premier Division in junior football, announced the revamped set up on Sunday 27 August which will see five different youth teams at separate age groups merge under the Clydebank FC Academy banner.
Club secretary Stuart Kelly said he feels the move is a step in the right direction for the club.
“It’s a real positive for the club and it shows what we’re all about. People know and respect the name, Clydebank FC, and it just felt like the right time to do this.
“They’ll benefit from the size and stature of the club, and the town, and it also better coordinates the process for players getting into our first team.”
Previously, teams from boys clubs in the nearby area had came to use the Clydebank FC crest and name, but still operated autonomously from the club itself. The main example is the current Under 19s squad pictured above which, before adopting the Clydebank FC signatures, was affiliated to Milngavie Wanderers.
Kelly said the streamlined structure would “get all these teams talking to each other and training with each other” and, with a new 3G pitch on the horizon it would provide the perfect place for young talent to grow.
“The new community stadium redevelopment means we’ll have a pitch open every day, all year, complete with floodlights. All boys clubs, girls teams, first team will have access to it and it will make for a real sense of home, bringing all our teams together under the same badge, the same strip and the same pitch, the same home.”
Kelly voiced the club’s hopes to attract more teams to the academy to build on the current five age groups, and also ambitions for a girls’ squad. Currently the West Dunbartonshire club has sides at Under 19s, Under 17s, both 11-a-side, and teams at the 2005 and 2007 age groups for 7-a-side and a 2010s team for 4v4s.
Kelly also revealed that the junior club’s first team manager, Kieran McAnespie, was a driving force behind the new academy.
“Kieran was very much for the idea, really in favour. It makes more sense for us to use our own than to go around looking for players from other clubs, and for the likes of our Under 19s, they get the benefit of playing and being around the first team.
“He also wants to get that sense of progression, not just with young guys going up but to like to get first team players coming down to work with 17s and 19s at a coaching level and, perhaps even more importantly, see first-hand what it takes to play for Clydebank and ask questions of the players, some of whom have played in senior leagues.
In addition to youth players occasionally training and/or playing with the first team, Kelly said the club plans to involve some of the younger players on matchdays by asking them to be ballboys or to help around the ground.
“We can attract around 300 to 500 fans on a good day and our Under 19s got the experience of that when they won the Scottish [Youth FA] Cup last year. Hundreds of Clydebank fans came to watch them in the final and cheer them on, and these people wouldn’t necessarily go to watch Under 19s football but they did because of Clydebank.”
Kelly emphasised the importance of the academy in relation to building on the club’s proud heritage. He said: “We of course were a senior club up until the 2000s until administration hit, and had legends like Davie Cooper turning out for us.
“The academy is the first step in realising the club’s ambitious plans to become the best in the area. And we’ll always look to progress the club to be the best it can be, whatever level of football that’s at.”