Following the successful launch of the Forth Valley Academy last year, Fife is now home to another such project; the Fife Elite Football Academy.
Led by Stephen Wright, FEFA is an amalgamation of youth academies from Dunfermline, Raith Rovers, East Fife and Cowdenbeath. Working alongside Stephen is Bill Hendry, former head of youth development at Hibernian where he was influential in developing the likes of future Scotland internationals Scott Brown, Steven Fletcher and Steven Whittaker. With a wealth of experience in coaching young footballers at their disposal, FEFA now hopes to recruit, educate and develop the next generation of talent in the Fife area.
Now in in its second season, FEFA has sides ranging from Under 11’s all the way to Under 17’s, and compete in the Elite Games Programme run by Club Academy Scotland against other academies from the likes of Celtic, Rangers, Dundee United, Aberdeen, Hibs and Hearts. As well as other SPFL academies from across Scotland.
With a healthy amount of last year’s graduates being rewarded with professional contracts by one of the four senior clubs in Fife, Stephen is now hoping to work alongside the region's youth football clubs to help retain the area’s best players: 'Rather than having players and parents travelling all over Scotland, hopefully with us on their doorstep we can get these players into the Fife clubs first teams, and then hopefully maybe beyond that in years to come’.
As well as helping with player development, FEFA also offer to help to local coaches by visiting clubs and inviting others to attend open training sessions: ‘People can come in and have trials, we also go out and meet the boys clubs and have coaches and players come into our training as well to try and help them along the way…we try to put a good service on for everyone in Fife’.
Despite the fantastic work already being done, Stephen is also looking towards the long term benefits of youth development for the region: ‘People have to recognise this is a long term view to youth development, we tell people not to look at the short term developments on the pitch. We are trying to develop football players and that can take years, you have to be patient and keep working away and hopefully this will benefit everyone in Fife’.
Although still in its infancy, the combined strength of four professional clubs certainly has the potential to benefit the region for years to come. And with the next generation of Scotland’s star footballers currently learning the ropes in parks and pitches all over the country, it is good to know that with the help of Stephen, Bill and the rest of the FEFA staff, Fife is not going to be left behind in the race to discover them.