SFA Performance School Manager and Under-17s head coach Brian McLaughlin reckons Scotland are producing some of the most gifted youth players in all of Europe.
Speaking on the Official Scotland Podcast before the 17s recorded back-to-back victories over Russia in Spain this past week, McLaughlin discussed the importance of developing players at youth level to play the ‘Scotland way’.
He said: “I don’t think there’s any European nation that I’ve played [as head coach of the 17s] that are better technically than us.
“That includes Spain, Germany, Croatia, England and Italy – there’s none of them better technically than us.
“Where we’ve really tried to change our training is on our awareness and tactical work.
“When you come away with Scotland you don’t do any technical work.
“If I’ve got a Scotland squad for six days, I’m not going to make any one of those players technically better – it’s just not going to happen.
“We’re always trying to work on their awareness and tactics because the technique is there; our clubs are doing a fantastic job.
“I think where we do still lack is physicality. We’re definitely much later in catching up.
“We do recruit players for the future; we’re recruiting them for a game they’re going to play in three or four years from now.
“So, sometimes when we go on the pitch we are miles off it physically.”
McLaughlin, who had previously worked as Performance School Coach at Holyrood High School in Glasgow prior to taking charge of the programme, also talked about the success of the Performance Schools.
Now in its seventh year, the performance school programme is a unique innovation designed to get Scotland’s brightest young talent training more. Seven schools from regions across the country were selected to be part of the initiative, and players from clubs all across each region were invited to attend these schools. Training at the academy then becomes part of their daily timetable, before they report back to their club academies in the evening.
McLaughlin discussed how this system – which has helped produce the likes of Harry Cochrane and Billy Gilmour – has proven successful so far.
“Short term? Yeah it’s worked.
“We’ve had seven 16-year-olds make their debut, which is quite incredible. If you look at the last 25 years of Scottish football we haven’t had seven 16-year-olds make their debut.
“So, instant success has been really good, our national youth squads have certainly benefitted from it.”