Features & Blogs (101)
In a new series of articles, YFS will be taking a closer look at some of the bright young talents coming out of the SPFL this season. Hot Prospect #1 is a defender who has already crossed Edinburgh's biggest divide after being released by one of the countries biggest academies. Owen McCarrey finds out more.
Hibernian defender Josh Doig is being tipped as a player for the future after the 18-year-old made his full competitive debut on the opening weekend of the SPFL season in a 2-1 Kilmarnock.
The debutants performance was highly praised by Hibs boss Jack Ross, who described Doig’s performance as “brilliant”.
In recent years Scottish football clubs have been known for producing a high calibre of youth players from their respective youth academies, from Andrew Robertson of Queens Park, to Kieran Tierney of Celtic, and Billy Gilmour from Rangers, to name a few.
Doig signed for Hibernian in the summer of 2019, having previously played for Edinburgh rivals Heart of Midlothian where he featured in their youth academy system. Initially kept on for an extra season in John Rankin's under-18s - where he would have played alongside Aaron Hickey and co - he was released at the end of the 2018-19 season.
In September 2019, the youngster was selected as part of the Scotland U18s squad and appeared in a 2-1 win over Paraguay for the Scots.
Doig’s impressive performances in training and games, as well as a stunning growth spurt, were then rewarded in February 2020, as the defender signed a new contract with the club keeping him there until the summer of 2023.
Shortly after putting pen to paper on his new deal, Doig was loaned out to Scottish League Two side Queens Park – who also produced Scotland left-back Barry Douglas - for the remainder of the season in order to gain the experience needed of playing regular first-team football.
During his short spells at the Spiders, Queens Park boss Ray McKinnon compared Doig’s style of play similar to that of Liverpool left-back and former Queens player, Andy Robertson.
“He was up and down, he was brilliant, and everybody was making comparisons with Andy Robertson”, McKinnon said, when speaking to Edinburgh Evening Newspaper in July.
After returning from Queens Park, Doig had a number of impressive moments in Hibs’ pre-season fixtures, most notably a scoring stunning volley against Scottish champions, Celtic at Parkhead.
He was then awarded his competitive debut for Hibs in the centre of defence in a 2-1 win over Kilmarnock on August 1st, leaving experienced Hibees defender Lewis Stevenson on the substitute bench.
Now, gaffer Jack Ross has called on Josh Doig to “seize his opportunity” ahead of Hibs upcoming league fixtures. They face Livingston on Saturday before travelling to Dundee United through the week, where Doig could come up against another promising youngster – Lewis Neilson.
Crawford Allan’s refereeing career started thanks to an unlikely source, he revealed in an interview with YFS reporter Angus Blacklock.
Allan, who retired his whistle in 2018 after 300 professional matches, has moved a role at the SFA where he is the Head of Referee Operations. Speaking to the AngusJB YouTube channel, he spoke about how he got into refereeing, the process and how long it took him, his worst decision, and the best advice he’s ever been given.
“I was helping out with a local boys brigade company and they had a league and they had struggled to get referees, so I just put on the tracksuit top and I would ref the games,” the former top flight ref said.
“I was prompted to do the course by a friend and I had no intentions of making a career out of it. All in all, it took me 11 years to referee a professional game. You can do it a little bit quicker now!”
However, he didn’t start off as the man in the middle.
“My first memory of playing football was school football probably P5 and P6 and then onto a bit of youth football. There was a local youth team near me so I played for them in high school, but I then found the lure of a paper round and money took me away from the youth side and I only played at school level.”
”I played right wing in primary school and then I became an overlapping full back until the legs gave in! But I played in every position.”
He was also keen to give advice to any young referees who are just starting out behind the whistle. “There’s a little phrase we use in the refereeing world.
“Control the Controllable.
“By that we mean, if you turn up at a game unfit - it's your own fault. Whereas if something happens on the pitch, it’s out of your control, so we always try and control all the things that are controllable.”
It’s easier said than done, he admitted. Reflecting on his worst decision, he looked many years down memory lane.
“There was one where I refereed a school game and I gave offside. He was clearly offside - about ten metres!
“After I gave it the attacker asked ‘what about him?’ And for some unknown reason, the defender had stopped to talk to the keeper. I had to stop the game and admit that I made a mistake!”
You can go check out the full interview on the AngusJB YouTube channel by clicking here.
The path to the top is often full of twists and turns, and no one knows that better than current Clyde midfielder and Hearts youth coach John Rankin.
The 36-year-old ex-Dundee United captain currently juggles playing for the League One outfit alongside coaching the Jambos’ under-18s, as well as assisting with the reserves.
His role at both clubs sees him dishing out advice to youngsters – albeit with slightly more responsibility at Riccarton.
“I don’t see it any different from when I was a player anywhere else,” he said of his squad status at Broadwood. “Obviously, I’m a bit more experienced here than what I was in previous years. It’s a young squad and I take that responsibility quite easily, there are a lot of arising young players.
“When out on the pitch, I help the manager out and I might move boys here and there, maybe a wee five or ten yards. I always try and help them, but as I said it’s not any different from where I’ve been in the past few years and I’ve been a captain over the past 7-8 years at various clubs and I don’t see it any different here. Although I may not be club captain, I still do my bit.”
It is not the end to the season that Rankin would have wanted. Having returned from two ankle operations – having broken it during the final game of last season – ‘Ranks’ came back to make seven appearances and even score.
His never-say-die attitude is sure to be rubbing off on his young apprentices at the Oriam – and it’s something that the Bellshill-born midfielder had to pick up early in his career.
He joined Manchester United as a teen, during the height of their triumphs, but soon found himself living in the real heart of world football – Brazil.
“Being 16 and signing for the European Champions, I mean that’s a massive, massive thing, being at Manchester United at that age.
“I was there when I was 16, I left my family and was away for four years and I enjoyed my time there. It was more the experience, than anything else, and as I said earlier, to have that opportunity to sign for the European Champions, is something that I’d probably kick myself if I hadn’t done.
“The big highlight was being captain of the under-15’s, under-17’s and reserves before I left, which we won the reserve league in 2001-2002, which was massive at that time.”
During his time with the Red Devils, Rankin, alongside fellow youth player Ben Muirhead, were sent to Brazil, by Sir Alex Ferguson on loan to Corinthians. However, it wasn’t all pannas in paradise.
“I didn’t really enjoy being over there as such, didn’t really take to the culture and being the only person who spoke English, which was really difficult for a young boy from Scotland, who only took French as a modern language.
“It was poverty-stricken as well, there were four-to-five-year-old kids flinging sweeties over wing-mirrors and begging, pretty much to make their mums and dads live, basically.
“It was very difficult to watch. The experience was good, but not one I’d say I liked best. Being a 16-17-year-old going over there, seeing what I saw, it was hard.”
He was released in 2003 and after a few trials, went north to Dingwall to sign for Ross County.
“Becoming a pro at Ross County and playing a game, it means something on a Saturday, when you’re playing for the three points and playing in the Scottish Cup and League Cup final and even though we lost both games, it’s a massive highlight.
“A particular moment I enjoyed in my career to date was the semi-final at Ibrox, when I was captain of Dundee United and the Scottish Cup Final.”
Now, Rankin is in charge of the under-18 side at Tynecastle - a big change from his days on the green side of Edinburgh. He is assisted by Donald Park, former Scotland under-19 manager and well-known face on the youth circuit.
As well as that, Rankin assisted Andy Kirk as the Jambos' reserve side won the Reserve Cup in the 18-19 season.
Adam Binnie is a journalism student at Strathclyde University and a recent graduate of the YFS Sports Journalism and Media programme. Below, he tells us why summer football is the way forward for youth age groups.
The Coronavirus pandemic has had a variety of implications on professional football in Scotland that have stirred up debates of league reconstruction, potential corruption and the distribution of league titles. Beyond the battle-lines of club statement warfare, grassroots football could be facing its own reformation for the 2020/21 season.
On the April 21, the Scottish Youth Football Association announced in an email sent to all member clubs that the 2019/20 season would be abandoned and that no further league fixtures should be played. However, their email addressed a specific issue that has lingered in the air of grassroots and professional Scottish football for many years: summer football.
The SYFA stated: “We also want to take this opportunity to raise the matter of summer football. Some of you will be aware of the petition regarding switching our 11-a-side age groups from a winter season to a summer season. In addition to this petition we have also received three emails from club officials supporting this change.”
It is evident that there is a healthy appetite for summer football in Scotland, both at grassroots and professional level. Craig Burness, a coach at Bervie Caley in the Aberdeen & District Juvenile FA, lodged a petition last month to convey grassroots football’s support for a summer season for juvenile age groups. His petition has received 769 signatures thus far and the SYFA have confirmed they are considering the proposals brought forward by Mr Burness.
On the back of Burness’s petition, Youth Football Scotland conducted polls on social media platforms to survey desire for a revamped grassroots football calendar. 81% of 3,600 participants were in favour of the switch to a summer season on Facebook and 76.5% of participants on Twitter also supported the change.
The introduction of a summer football season (March-November) offers a host of financial, logistical, and sporting advantages.
Firstly, this will simply increase the volume and frequency of football that is played. The current August-May season is a victim of Scotland’s harsh winters, subsequently severely limiting the amount of football played, particularly between the months of November and February.
I have been playing at grassroots level for over a decade now and every winter is the same. There is nothing worse than waking up to the dreaded text on a Saturday morning that notifies you the game is off. Unless, of course, the postponement is announced by the match referee during the warm-up!
In my league alone, 40 games were cancelled, postponed, or abandoned between the months of November and February. Of the ten sides in the league, six were unable to complete more than half of their scheduled fixtures between this period, with my side managing just nine league games in 31 weeks.
On February 15 of this year, Rangers had their Ladbrokes Premiership tie with Livingston postponed as a result of adverse weather conditions. Ibrox Stadium is a UEFA ‘5-star’ elite stadium, one of just 27 with such a prestigious accreditation in Europe. If weather is too large an obstacle for a UEFA ‘5-star’ elite stadium, then what chance do our dog-littered public parks stand?
The March-November season model is already being used in Scottish Women's Football, Club Academy Scotland and Scottish Youth FA age groups at under-12 level and below. Surely, if the SFA deem the summer season as the most viable option to develop our young players at academies, the SYFA should adopt the same approach for developing grassroots players.
The CAS games programme allows for a 33-week league calendar with each team playing 32 games. This is 10 more than the average number played at grassroots level in the Central Region, despite a longer matchday calendar of 44 weeks.
In addition, it is important to recognise that a summer football season would not only be more practical and allow for more football to be played, but it could also save grassroots sides money.
The winter season weather forces clubs to hire artificial pitches in order to keep games on, not to mention the costly hiring of indoor or floodlit training surfaces through the week. With the average rent of an 11-a-side artificial surface exceeding £100 per hour and indoor training venues such as games halls or five-a-side halls charging around £30 per hour, a severe winter can see grassroots sides fork out as much as £260 every week in pitch hires.
A summer season could limit weekly pitch hires to just £40 per week, or nothing at all for the many grassroots clubs who own their own pitch.
However, for a game built on volunteers, a nationwide rejig would require extensive consultation and planning to implement this new structure effectively. Nonetheless, the SYFA are still willing to bring this to fruition, should they agree it would be of betterment to the grassroots game:
“We have a duty to listen to our members and respond appropriately and responsibly to such suggestions and as such will be conducting an extensive consultation project, initially with our member leagues, in order to discuss the practicalities of this suggestion”
With this proposal now being investigated, players could return to the field with small but significant adjustments. By moving the goalposts just slightly, the SYFA can make grassroots football more affordable, enjoyable, and accessible for all.
The coronavirus outbreak, and subsequent national lockdown, has robbed us of thousands of hours of football across the country. We cannot allow another harsh Scottish winter to place a further burden on grassroots football, we must protect our clubs and officially adopt a summer football season.
- €4.8 million euros in subjective wellbeing
- More than €500,000 euros in improved mental health
- €275,000 value in tackling dementia
- €250,000 in combatting abscences from school
- €350,000 in educational attainment
- €2.5 million euros from investment in infrastructure
- €1 million euros in value from volunteering
- €1.5 million euros value in subjective wellbeing
- €170,000 euros in improved mental health
- €100,000 euros in reducing Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes
Ian Maxwell, Scottish FA Chief Executive: “This next phase of UEFA research is invaluable in proving that the benefits of Scottish football extend far beyond 90 minutes.
“We have been well aware for some time of the importance of Scottish community clubs to their local areas and this study now helps us put a figure on that.
“The fantastic work that Ayr United and Spartans undertake has long established them as pillars of their respective communities and it is rewarding to see such impressive figures in vital areas such as health and mental wellbeing.
“Having access to this data will hopefully go some way to helping these community clubs to attract further investment, allowing them to improve what they offer to their communities and, in turn, growing the value that they provide.”
Ralph Chalmers, owner of St Andrew Print, said “We have found that these interactive cards generate many questions, not just for young people but also for communities, as part of awareness, and, more importantly, parents who know very little about the significant changes to drug issues and the severe consequences, until it’s too late. As far as we are aware, no one else in the world is producing an interactive drug prevention and awareness initiative that involves a range of drug associated smells.
”Having worked very closely with medical professionals, professor of chemistry, police drug squad and ex drug addicts, we have successfully replicated these smells, which are very distinct and somewhat off-putting. Although the two smells of cannabis are of the raw drug, the two smells of mephedrone and amphetamine ARE NOT THE DRUG but the effect of taking the drug and what smell is emitted, in the form of body odour, which then contaminates clothing.”
Another initiative created by St Andrew Print are ‘Gambling with your Life’ a scratch card relating to New Psychoactive Substance, formerly known as legal highs, showing how random the consequences are in taking this drug.
Some people do not realise the affect drugs can have on your appearance, so St Andrew Print created a card showing faces of both male and female drug users with before and after images. The cards are called ‘The Real Face of Drugs’ and some of the faces are unrecognisable.
Check out their website and testimonials on drug awareness: http://www.standrewprint.co.uk/products/drugs-scratch-sniff
You have until 12pm on Monday 16th January to nominate a goal. The goal must meet the following requirements:
Last weekend's action across the country was largely halted by the intervention of Jack Frost. Fortunately the snow has seemed to pass and we are looking at having a full card of fixtures on show this weekend.
Cup competitions are the focus this week, with Scottish Cup quarter finals taking place at U13 and U14 level.
Here are the pick of the games from across the country this weekend:
Portobello CFA vs West Lothian U13 - Stewart Brien Cup - Quarter Final
Both of these sides occupy the top two places in the SERYFA U13's First Division, meaning that we can expect a really close contest in thei Stewart Brien Cup Quarter Final match.
Portobello will go into the match as favourites, having fared much better in cup competitions this season than their opponents, as well as still holding a 100% record in the league.
West Lothian will be motivated however. They are in good form and sit top of the league at the moment. They will also be looking to avenge their defeat against Portobello earlier in the season in the Lothian Buses Cup, losing 5-2. Here is hoping for another high-scoring game on Sunday.
Dundee Celtic BC vs East Craigie Swifts U15 - Tommy Clark Trophy - Semi Final
These two played each other in December, with Dundee Celtic emerging as 1-0 winners, and a close match is expected once again in this highly anticipated semi final clash in the DDYFA.
Both sides are pushing hard in the league, occupying the second and third spots in the DDYFA U15s G Taylor League. Celtic occupy second, just two points above East Craigie having played one game more.
East Craigie will be looking to avenge their defeat to Celtic earlier in the season and both teams will be hoping that this game beats the weather.
Banks O'Dee Albion vs Dyce BC U15 - ADJFA U15's A League
A match with real ramifications at the top of the ADJFA A League takes place this weekend as Dyce BC travel to Spain Park to take on Banks O'Dee Albion.
Both sides have had great runs in the Scottish Cup. Banks O'Dee made it to the fifth round before being cruelly knocked out on penalties in a classic against Kilsyth Athletic, whilst Dyce have made it to the semi finals of the competition.
The last meeting between these two ended in a 1-1 draw so it will be interesting to see if anyone can come out on top this time.
EKFC Blue vs Hurlford BC U19 - Scottish Youth FA Cup - Quarter Final
Familiar opponents for both of these teams this weekend. These two contested the Scottish Cup Final last season and will clash for a place in this season's semis.
On that occasion it was EKFC who emerged victorious with a 2-1 win after extra time and it is expected that this match on Sunday will be equally close.
Hurlford will have their eyes set on revenge as well as a semi final place, whilst EKFC will be looking to complete consecutive cup triumphs.
Livingston goalkeeper Liam Kelly believes coaching is vital to a young shot-stopper and insists happiness will help young keepers reach the top.
Kelly was on hand to make a guest appearance at GK Icon’s free taster session on Friday night, with the training being led by Clyde’s goalkeeper coach Chris Fahey and Stranraer goalkeeping coach Eric Phillips. He explained why he wanted to help Fahey’s and Phillips’ initiative.
“I’ve came to support GK Icon because of the great work Chris and Eric do with the young kids. They give a lot back to the young goalkeepers in the Paisley and Renfrewshire area, so I want to be able to support that and answer a few questions the kids may have. I’m just happy they have the chance to work with great coaches like Eric and Chris."
Kelly is enjoying his first stint as a regular Premiership goalkeeper, having left boyhood club Rangers in the summer. He has played a vital part in what has been a great season back in the top flight for Livi. He shared his thoughts on what he thinks is key for a young keeper in the modern game.
“I think it’s important to listen, that’s a big thing. You should have an opinion, tell your coaches what you see and just try and get better everyday and in every training session.
“Every game you have an opportunity to become a better player, a better person and a better goalkeeper. Everytime you have a ball and a set goals with your mates is a chance to improve as a keeper, so just give it your best shot. As long as your happy just try and play to the best of your ability.”
Having made it to the top level, Kelly is aware of how hard it is to make it as a professional goalkeeper, and the demands of the modern game. He gave his advice on the best way for young keepers to develop their skills.
“When you get the opportunity to work with great coaches like Eric and Chris, I would take it if I was their age.
“In the grand scheme of things in terms of their career, it’s all about being happy. When times are tough just remember there is another game around the corner to put it right. Just enjoy playing your football, and then you can try and get to the highest level possible, wherever that is.”
Clyde goalkeeper coach Chris Fahey is helping young keepers learn from the best- and hopes that his GK Icon sessions encourage youngsters to put on the gloves.
Fahey runs his GK Icon sessions every Monday and Friday at the MOBO Sports Arena in Paisley alongside Stranraer goalkeeping coach Eric Phillips. He enlisted the help of Livingston keeper Liam Kelly and Falkirk’s David Mitchell to help run a free taster session for young goalkeepers.
He hopes the kids have learned from their experience training with professional keepers: “I was really pleased with the turnout we got. There were about 60 or 70 kids here, so that was good. They all had smiles on their face, and I hope they have learned something from me, David, Liam and Eric.
“I was pleased Liam and David came along and gave that bit of inspiration to the boys and girls that were here. They are playing at a really good level, so it’s good for the kids to see them here.”
Fahey and Phillips’ sessions are all about learning the fundamentals of goalkeeping, whilst enjoying themselves in the process. Fahey revealed his own experiences growing up inspired him to start up his own goalkeeper sessions for youngsters.
“When I was a kid, I never had any goalkeeping coaching. When I was young you were told to go into the corner, and kick a ball around with each other, I never really knew about technique or how to become a goalkeeper.
“That’s why myself and Eric started this. We now have a bit of experience behind us, and hopefully we can pass that on to the kids.
“Some of the kids we train do the same drills now as the ones I do with Clyde’s first team, the kids just pick it up very quickly.”
Having played for many teams across Scotland, including Albion Rovers, Raith Rovers, and Stenhousemuir, Fahey has plenty of goalkeeping wisdom and knowledge he can pass on to aspiring keepers.
He shared his top tips for young goalkeepers: “The main thing is being told how to be a goalkeeper. This means they won’t pick up bad habits from a guy who has never played in goals before.
“Guys like me and Eric have played professionally all our lives and we have guys that are professional just now coming in and telling them what to do and what not to. Coming to classes like this even if it’s only an hour a week will really help their development.
“My biggest piece of advice for a young goalkeeper, and their parents, is if they make a mistake don’t worry about it. Turn on Match of the Day on a Saturday night and you’ll see players on £100,000 a week making mistakes. You just have to get on with it.
“The biggest thing about being a goalkeeper is to learn from mistakes and try not do it again. All goalkeepers make mistakes. I think managers and parents have to realize that."
Stephen McManus believes Motherwell have done all the right things to deliver a successful youth academy.
McManus was part of the Scotland squad that featured at Star Sixes, valiantly fighting for a joint third place finish in the star-studded tournament.
His focus now returns to Motherwell, where he coaches at various levels, from U18s, to the first team and the former Scotland international says the club have the right staff working with the different groups at Motherwell.
“I’ve been working at all different stages at the club, from youths to the first team I’m not really in the academy as much myself, I’m based at Fir Park. I am dealing with the academy for about an hour and a half a day, but the people at the club have been great with them.
“Steven Hammell and David Clarkson are based at Braidhurst, whilst I’m based at Fir Park. It’s good to have people in the right areas developing footballers for the first team.”
Motherwell have several young academy graduates in their team, with Chris Cadden, Allan Campbell, and David Turnbull all regular features in Stephen Robinson’s matchday squad. 16-year old Stuart McKinstry was named on the bench for the Steelmen’s Boxing Day fixture, highlighting the pathway to the first team for young stars.
McManus hopes to not only produce players who will play for Motherwell, but stars that will go on to become household names.
“We want to grow players that want to play for their country and play at the highest stage they possibly can. We have people that are ambitious all the way throughout the club, and these people are helping to drive the club forward.
“Whatever team you’re in, obviously the goal is the first team, but ultimately the aim has to be to play for your country and play in the biggest games you can.”
McManus thinks Fir Park boss Robinson is a massive part in this motivation for youngsters. He has seen the Northern Irishmen deliver the important message of youth development at Fir Park first hand.
“The manager really drives the message to our youths. He wants them in the first team, so he can sell them on, and see them play for their country, wherever there from. The fans demand good players, so through our academy, we try and produce good talent.”
Former England goalkeeper David James believes that money has its pros and cons for youth development, but thinks the modern game allows young players to grow and mature.
The ex-Three Lions stopper was in Glasgow for the Star Sixes tournament, which his side eventually won, beating the Rest of The World 3-2 in the final. James spoke before the final day of games about how hard it was for him to break into squads as a youngster.
“There’s a boy I’ve been speaking to whilst I’ve been here, who I used to play with in my school boy team at Watford. I didn’t recognize him because it was a few years ago now. At that stage in football though, we had four apprentices at Watford.
“These schoolboys played with the youth team, so the opportunities were difficult back then because there were less spaces to fill. The influx of money means more players can be afforded opportunities”
With more time being given for players to develop, it has given young stars a greater period to grow, as both a footballer and a person. James offers Southampton goalkeeper Angus Gunn as a prime example of this.
“Players like Angus Gunn. Gunn is 24, and prior to his spell at Norwich last year, he hadn’t played a professional game. In a sense, it’s took him till 22 years old to make a professional appearance. You would never have got away with that 20 years ago. There’s more numbers in the game, but there is more space to get into a better position.”
James feels that an extended growth period in academies are a great way for youth prospects to fully prosper in modern football, but knows how hard it can be to break through, regardless of the circumstances.
“The money has allowed people to grow, rather than the difficulty to get into a starting 11. I think it’s given people longer periods to develop. Smaller clubs suffer though, because they haven’t got the money to hand out equal opportunities.”
“It’s never easy, when you do the numbers it’s something like 2,500 positions that have to be filled. That’s not many, and when you've got players like Joe Cole who have had long careers, sometimes these positions don’t come about very often.”
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