Jimmy Johnstone Academy under-14s lost just one game on the way to winning the Cumbernauld & Kilsyth DYL League A. They beat closest rivals Kirkintilloch Rob Roy by four points, and racked up an impressive goal difference of 34 on their way to the title.
On top of the league triumph, they added two trophies to the season's haul, winning the Knockout Cup and the Condorrat Cup. They even had the chance to add a fourth trophy but lost the League Cup final to Cumbernauld Colts Blues.
The preparation for this season's triumph came after a setback in the 2013-14 season.
"The team grew up this year, winning high pressure games that last season we maybe would have lost points in either by drawing or losing. Why was this? I think the turning point came last season after we missed out on a place in the final of the Knockout cup – leading 3-1 with eight minutes left we ended up losing the match. That hurt and for a lot of the players it was the first major disappointment of their young careers. After this game we set the target of winning our remaining league games, we went on a run of winning the remaining 10 including beating that years league champions at home. They had only lost one game all season," coach Steven Henderson told Youth Football Scotland.
"We carried that form into this season and with every win confidence grew, which is a good thing without becoming complacent. We carried this form into other domestic competitions and we knew that we could compete with teams around us on all fronts. This helped lead us to three cup finals, two of which we have won with one to go and of course the league."
Jimmy Johnstone's three victories over runners-up Kirkintilloch proved vital in lifting the league trophy, but picking up points against other teams were just as important to Henderson.
"There were probably three matches that sticks out as vital wins. Just before Christmas a 2-1 away win to Lenzie meant we finished the year top of the league. The 2-1 home win against Kirkintilloch Rob Roy, 1-0 down with five minutes left to turn it around against a team who finished second put us in pole position, and finally the 2-1 away victory over Moorlands. We had seen both Gartcairn and Kirkintilloch drop points against Moorlands and we knew if we could get points there then it would put us in a strong position," Henderson said.
As with many league-winning teams, every player contributes to their success but building from the back with a top quality goalkeeper and attacking full backs has been crucial.
"I have been here for six years and every player at one stage or another has contributed massively to what the academy has tried to achieve. If I was to pick anyone out I guess it would be our award winners. Ben Shaw for his consistency reliability and on field desire to win has driven us forward. Lucas Nelson's performances in goals have exhumed confidence throughout the back four and allowed us to play with a creative freedom built from the back. And last but by no means least Owen Sweeney who over the year has developed into a fantastic attacking full back linking up play from back to front and chipping in with a few match winning spectacular goals," Henderson said.
Their aim for the future: keep developing their players into the stars of the next generation.
"[We want to] continually progress, and progress for us is success in the national and regional sense. We want to show that we can not only win our domestic competitions but the nationals too. The end goal for us as an academy is to be successful but how do we gauge success? It’s to develop these players so they can move to the next level but at the same time be successful on the pitch," Henderson said.
Congratulations to Jimmy Johnstone Academy under-14s, 2014-15 Cumbernauld & Kilsyth DYL League A winners!