The season might be entering its final stages, but spring is just the beginning for a selection of Scotland’s most promising youth players. On 10 April, The Celtic Football Academy travelled to Murcia in Spain on a three-day session in which the stars of tomorrow were put through their paces by a team of top coaches.
More than just ball skills
We all know the pressures that can be part and parcel of playing football at the highest level. Money, adulation and media attention are great in their own way, but can also lead to some high profile falls from grace. For this reason, the event doesn’t just focus on the skills that are needed on the field of play.
For example, footballers and gambling have always gone hand in hand, but today’s gamblers typically prefer to visit a casino online. Of course, there is no harm in a leisurely game of secret slots or similar, but a major part of the Academy event is to help young footballers recognise the signs when a harmless leisure activity can turn into a problem, both for them and those around them.
Developing skills on and off the field
Of course, the main focus is out in the middle, and over the three days, the participants were involved in more than ten hours of drills, mini-games and other exercises, which reflect exactly what goes on in the regular academy.
There were also a series of classroom session and lectures from keynote speakers on what it takes to succeed as a professional footballer in the 21st century.
Who was in attendance
The event was aimed at youth players who are just starting to come up through the ranks and could become household names over the coming decade. Open to Scottish footballer born between 2002 and 2007, there was undoubted talent on display, and some top coaches from the Celtic Academy to help them develop their skills.
To the winner the spoils
While the session was open to any qualifying applicant willing to stump up the £325 fee, there was something extra special on offer for those who could demonstrate the skill and attitude to really make it as a professional.
Following extensive feedback and one-on-one sessions with the coaching staff, the best of the best were offered a unique opportunity to spend an entire week with Celtic as part of the Youth Academy. There is no better way to fully understand the life of a professional footballer than to spend a week in that sort of company.
About the Youth Academy
Every professional team understands that it needs to constantly look to its future, and invests in youth development in some shape or form. However, the programme at Celtic is universally accepted as world class. Since the inception of Project Brave, there has been almost as much competition amongst the academies as there is out in the middle between the first teams.
Earlier in the season, Celtic’s academy was awarded elite status by the Scottish FA, meaning it is considered by those who matter to be among the top academies in Scotland. A brief glance through the alumni certainly suggests that the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Current first team stars including Kieran Tierney (pictured, above), James Forrest, Liam Henderson and Callum McGregor are all products of the academy, and there are plenty of current academy players who have had early opportunities for first team glory.
It will be intriguing to see who among those who attended Murcia this year will be the first team stars dominating the back pages in ten years time.