Football is a sport we all love but it has a habit of lifting you up one minute and bringing you down the next, the boys at St Mirren YFC under 17's know all about that, especially going so close to making the GADYFL League Cup Final but they lost their semi-final 3-1 to Morton.
Saints where missing influential midfielder Kris Gray in the warm up, Jonathan Cowan who had cartilage operation and out for 6 weeks and centre half Jonathan O’Neill who broke his arm. Resulted in Saints handing debut to Jack Gunn who was signed two days before the tie.
First half saw the saints take the lead from the debut boy Gunn. Some good lead up play seen a cross being delivered from the right hand side into the box where Gunn came in at the back post to nod home. Saints where now looking for a second. As the first half went on they passed up a few good chances to extend their lead. Morton themselves started to come into the game and where unlucky not equalise. The half ended with the Saints leading 1-0.
The second half started and Morton looked to get back into the game. They started to force saints onto the back foot and created a few goal scoring opportunities. Saints responded and an Andy Maxwell shot hit the upright from a free kick.
Morton's pressure finally paid off and they got a deserved equaliser. The game was evenly matched and was there for the taking for both sides. Morton's team however looked determined to book their place in the final, and it resulted in a second goal. Saints defender Dale Malley failed to intercept and cut out a pass, which left the Morton striker one on one on the goal, and he slotted the ball past Saints keeper Calum Mathers.
Saints had to respond and both Sean McLaughlin and Ryan Officer missed good opportunities to level. Officer saw a header hit the bar and McLaughlin missed an opportunity from 6 yards out. With just under 10 minutes remaining Morton, sealed their passage through to the final when a shot from 20 yards was parried by Mathers to the oncoming Morton Striker 6 yards out who made no mistake.
The remaining 8 minutes where a formality and Morton clinched the final place which was no more than they deserve after their second half performance where they persevered and looked the more hungrier to reach the final.
The Saints have suffered of late as they have been lacking in the depth of their squad coupled with injuries have really taken their toll at times this season and this perhaps cost them in matches like the Morton semi-final, although it has to be said that Morton had deserved their win.
Despite this set back, Iain and Will have big plans for their side and will get them back on track again.
Knowing these two men as I do and without revealing too much, I can smell the ambition from these guys and I like their way of forward thinking, these coaches will everything they can do for this club and I hope they do get the players in to help add to this young squad who have already proved they can win a title and reach a cup semi-final.
Watching the boys grow as coaches and as men over the last two years, I only wish the best for them and I am almost certain they and their football club, will achieve big things in the future and it couldn't happen to two nicer, hard working guys who deserve success.
They have tasted success and now they have tasted defeat, and dealing with those kinds of things, can be the making of not only both men as coaches but the boys they coach week in week out, who will look to them for inspiration and guidence in the games which lie ahead, football will be the making or breaking of them, but they already know that and are up for the challenge.
St Mirren Football Youth Football Club Under 14s, launched a new image just after the New Year, with a very distinctive black and white kit sponsored by Paramed UK.
Local company Paramed UK are Scotland's leading provider of independent ambulance cover at public gatherings and are experts in specialist ambulance transport. Paramed UK offer the widest range of vehicles for urgent and non-urgent transport journeys within the UK and are recognised as being the largest private ambulance service operating in Scotland today providing both a cost-effective and extremely high level of service.
Operating from a main office near Glasgow Airport, Renfrewshire, Paramed UK undertake an extensive number of contracted patient journeys per year for the National Health Service.
Stephen Mann, Club Coach said “I’d like to thank local businessman Paul Kenny for coming to our aid in a time of recession. Paramed UK have supplied a complete playing kit and rain-jackets for our entire squad by a quality brand from local suppliers Gilmour Sports, as well as coaching gear and rain-jackets for our coaches. We cannot thank Paul enough, especially when money is tight and grassroots sports in Renfrewshire is having to use the majority of hard earned fund raising on expensive local facilities”
Paul Kenny said “It was great to be able to do something for a worthy cause; Paramed UK cater for a wide range of different events where ambulance cover is required, such as at SPL Football Matches, so we thought we’d sponsor a local grassroots football club. For us it’s a win win situation, we get to help a great youth football community and the young footballers get to look very striking in their new kit. Here’s wishing them well for the rest of the season!”
St Mirren Youth Football Club are also working hard in the background, by upgrading facilities at their Jenny’s Well Playing Field. Squads are coached locally in Renfrewshire, playing Fun Fours, Soccer Sevens, 11-a-side development and 11-a-side competitive football. All Club coaches are SFA qualified, First Aid certificated and Disclosure Scotland checked.
The Club are always looking for talented young footballers and community minded volunteers and helpers.
Anyone interested in playing, coaching or volunteering in a quality youth football club, please visit our website www.stmirrenyfc.org.uk
or contact Frank Sweeney, Club Secretary on 07760413394.
What are you waiting for – Scotland’s future footballers need you!
Hopefully on my next blog, I will have the latest on the girls news at the club and a some more big news from the boys, till next time
"Come On You Saints!"
Entry 8 | 23rd November 2011
The Saints Hope to march on!
This month’s round up of all that has happened in the world of St.Mirren YFC starts with news on the field and a victory for the young Saints in the Glasgow and District League Cup.
Despite everything that has been happening on and off the field the club have managed to focus on this season’s Glasgow and District League Cup and against opponents who are higher placed in the league, they still managed to hold their own despite an early set back.
The Saints took on Maryhill Juniors at Crownpoint Sport Centre in the quarter final and despite Maryhill going into the match as strong favourites, the young Saints clinched a 2- 1 victory to secure a semi-final spot and give everyone at the club even more reasons to be happy with the progress of this young squad.
Maryhill’s favourites tag look justified after the first minute, when they scored virtually with their first attack of the game, where their high tempo start to the game, lead to a cross coming in from the right and St Mirren full back Jordan Gallagher being caught on the wrong side of the incoming attacker who sneaked in to open the scoring.
Saints looked stunned, not just at losing the goal, but at the pace the Maryhill side started the match. However, after an edgy opening 15 minutes where Maryhill where dominant, Saints started to play their way back into the game and got their reward with an equaliser from Jonathan Cowan, who latched onto a through ball before scoring.
It was an open match and both sides had chances in the first half to go into the lead at half time, however, it ended all square.
After the interval, both teams looked determined to clinch a semi-final spot. Maryhill created the better of the chances and Saints had keeper Calum Mathers to thank for keeping the game level. However, the substitution with 25 minutes to go made by the Saints would prove a telling one. First half goal scorer Jonathan Cowan was replaced by Ryan Officer. Many seen it as a bold move by the Saints coaching team, substituting their first half goal scorer. However, the decision was justified, when Officer won possession out wide and delivered an excellent cross to the back post where Anton Di Cristina was waiting to head the ball into the net. Di Cristina who had returned from injury and been highlighted before the game as one to watch and labelled a “matchwinner” certainly lived up to that comment..
Saints where now prepared from heavy pressure from Maryhill for the remainder of the game. As Maryhill applied the pressure to the Saints backline and forced them back, an equaliser looked likely. Four minutes from time, Maryhill thought they had just that , however, the referee who took up an excellent position had adjudged the goal to be offside, much to the relief of the Saint side line.
With few minutes remaining plus injury time, resilient defending by the Saints seen the game out . As the final whistle blew, Saints players celebrated clinching their semi final spot and knew that they would either take on Rangers SABC or Morton.
The Under 17’s Saints found out that they would face Morton in the semi-final of the GADYFL League Cup, and now they hope to book their place in the final at Toryglen Indoor Regional Football Centre.
17’s haven’t had their problems to seek, with players leaving and injuries occurring, it has impacted massively on their season so far. However, the coaches believe their luck will have to change at some point.
Commenting on the departures and injury situation Saints coach Iain MacMillan remains upbeat with the up and coming semi-final and future ahead.
” Obviously, we are struggling with regards the number of players we have in the squad. The team is going through a transition at the moment and we have a core group of players who are dedicated and we believe can take this team to the next level. It’s up to myself, Will and Chris now to go and find players to add to these group of core players and help them get there. “
“We have been together two and half seasons and achieved quite a lot development wise with the team, however, in football, changes happen and players leave, it’s the nature of the game. Unfortunately, the older the boys get more interests and outside involvement become more prominent. However, it’s the start of a new era with this group of players and the players we eventually add. “
“At the moment, we are not getting breaks in games and just have to persevere and eventually it will come good. All teams go through change and it’s our turn just now. We might be losing games in the league just now but long term it will stand us in good stead for the plans we have for this team. To be fair some results in the league this season has not justified the performances put in by the players “
Looking ahead to the semi-final, league form will go out the window and the Saints coach is hoping he will have a fully fit squad to choose from and niggling injuries to players like Anton Di Cristina, Johnny Cowan, Dale Maley, and Ryan Officer are overcome for the game.
“Hopefully, they will be fit and ready as on our day with a full team to choose from we are match for any side. Unfortunately, this year we haven’t had a consistent run regarding team selection ”
As I have seen the work that has gone on running this football club from top to bottom, I know the problems that Iain, Will and Chris have faced as they try and build their squad for the challenges that lie ahead of them. What they have done over the last two years, building a squad from basically nothing to winning the league in their first season and now to the brink of a Cup Final if they can win this mini Renfrewshire Derby against Morton and get to the Glasgow and District League Cup Final v either Harmony Row or Albion Rovers, would be amazing for these guys and I just wonder if the players know just how well they have done thus far and how much they owe their coaches for giving them the chance to be involved in such a fantastic club?
Some may think that the grass is greener on the other side or at another Under 17 club but this is not always the case.
What can be achieved at this club if these coaches get the luck and breaks their hard work deserves is surely enough for the players to knuckle down and listen to what is being said to them about the future possibilities they can achieve with ST.Mirren YFC.
The club can never stand still or stand in the way of players leaving but the lessons that can be learned and the grounding that they will get listening guys like Iain, Will and Chris and also Frank Sweeney, is something they may never experience at another club but as I have already said, this club will never stand still and they are looking to give more players the chance to join this fantastic set-up at St Mirren Youth Football Club. The 17’s are strengthening their squad and if anybody is interested they can contact the under 17 coaches by clicking here.
It’s a chance for some young kid to go along and speak to coaches who have already been a success and are looking to continue to build on that success, year after year, season after season as this club just wants to spread wings and grow as more than just a football club- your child will be welcomed to St.Mirren Youth Football Club as they have a football family which will eventually get bigger and bigger
If you would like your child boy or girl to be involved in a team then
Parents of talented young footballers who are interested in quality coaching by SFA Licensed coaches should contact Frank Sweeney, Club Secretary, for further information.
Frank can be contacted on 07760 413 394 01505 814 729
Sometimes they do need help, if it’s not players then help will be needed to help the club off the field also.
Groundsman and Electrician
The Club seek qualified and experienced people who have industry knowledge and understanding in Ground Care & Maintenance or time served Electricians.
There is no money in this other than perhaps expenses.
We are registered with the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator, so you will be helping a good cause.
Anyone who meets our needs and is willing to donate time to complete these tasks - please contact Frank on the number above
The club are always looking for coaches and squad administrators too!!!
This is a perfect chance for individuals to get involved with a club that is growing and going places, can you afford for you or your child to miss out?
Good Luck to the young Saints v Morton in the Glasgow and District League Cup, full report will follow in my next update.
Entry 7 | 12th October 2011
Youth Takes Centre Stage In the Glasgow and District League Cup
The SPL and SFL tried it and it worked a treat but now it is the turn of the youths to take centre stage as Friday night football kicks off a weekend of fixtures in the Glasgow and District League Cup.
For some clubs, this could be the start of something big as they all aim to win the cup and also give their fans and players that much needed lift after a slow start to the season.
St.Mirren YFC in particular, hope that this competition can give the players another taste of glory to add to their league title of two years ago, although everyone at the club are looking forward to what should be an exciting clash with Maryhill,they are well aware that they have not yet lived up to the standards set from previous seasons, for the under 17's the cup will be a welcome distraction given their recent league form, where they have failed to capitalise from winning positions and have dropped silly points already in the league.
The club have already tasted success in their first season winning the league title but now after a faltering start in the league, they hope to get some of form back but they know it will not be easy against a very talented young Maryhill side.
Despite not having the best start in the league they have however eased through into the quarter finals after a 4 -2 victory against Rossvale BC away, which so far has turned out to be their best performance of the season.
Looking ahead to the game St Mirren YFC coaches Iain MacMillan, Will Devlin and Chris Mathers aim to take the positives from their games this season. Although, disappointed with the start of the league campaign, MacMillan believes one victory could turn their season and is hoping that quarter final against Maryhill Juniors will prove a turning point in the season.
Saints should see the return from injury of Anton Di Cristina and MacMillan believes his return is a timely one.
“Anton, has tremendous ability on the ball and on his day can be a match winner. Having him fully fit would be a great boost to the team. “
One negative aspect so far this season for MacMillan has been the ease of how the opposition have been getting the goals, something himself and fellow coach Will Devlin are keen to stop. In their opinion, the team have been giving away goals far too cheaply and not making the opposition work for their goals.
“We aren’t defending correctly as a team and killing ourselves in games. We have lost goals from giving away needless free kicks in dangerous areas of the park. In addition, the decision making and concentration levels of our players haven’t been 100%. It has resulted in mistakes which in all honesty should never happen. At this level and the teams we are competing against, it gets punished. “
Maryhill made it through to this stage of the competition after a 4-2 extra-time win over Riddrie Villa after the match ended 1-1 after 90 minutes.
Scorers on the night for the Hill Darren McCarron, Martin Hope, Thomas Clark and Zander Bentley .
Although Maryhill are above their quarter final opponents, form and indeed league positions will go out of the window as both clubs look to book a place in the semi-final.
Indeed this gives the clubs an early chance to put some silverware on the table and as the draw has already been made for the next stages, it allows the clubs to see who they could face if they are lucky enough to progress.
Albion Rovers v Erskine YFC
Westerton Utd v Harmoney Row BC
Rangers SABC v Morton BC
Maryhill Juniors v St.Mirren YFC
These clubs and their young players and coaches are the future of the game in this country and the focus put on these clubs by YFS gives the young kids at these clubs a platform to make a name for their clubs and themselves.
Lets hope that we see a great advert for the game at this level and fingers crossed for some exciting matches and keep a look out on YFS for more news on St Mirren YFC in the future.
In a week when the national side again failed to qualify for a major championship, the focus must turn once again to grassroots football to help coaches like Billy Stark and Craig Levein, it may sound mad but if players are good enough no matter their age then they should be monitored and if they are good enough, maybe a few of the youths of today who are playing in this type of competition, can be the stars of tomorrow, Stephen McGinn is the proof of that from the St.Mirren YFC system.
I recently wrote about the exploits of St Mirren Youth Football Club 1995 (under 16) side and how well they have done since they formed two seasons ago especially in their debut season at competitive level where they clinched the Paisley and District league title, then moving onto a more competitive GADYFL league.
This time, I thought that I would turn the spotlight on their Under 19’s side (pictured, right) that have also had plenty to celebrate under the fantastic guidance of Jimmy Logue.
Jimmy has had plenty of reasons to be cheerful as he watched with pride as his side more than held their own in a very difficult league.
I managed to grab a few words with Jimmy as he summed up his teams efforts last season and looks forward to the season ahead.
“As it was our first years of 19's, we finished in a very solid 6th place out of 15 teams.”
“I have managed the team two seasons now and the team was started from scratch.”
”We play in the Glasgow and District League and finished the league campaign with a very respectable 8 wins in the last 10 league games.
“However, 4 of the top 5 team were all second year 19's or had a majority of boys born a year older than ours.”
We are now in the process of looking for new players for the 2011-12 season and we are looking for players who want to work, train hard and play hard.
We should have a good contingent of the lads returning next season and I have about 8 trialists on hold at the moment.”
At the YFC level we are as close to a pro-youth setup as we can get, our training is the same, our preparation and organization is on a par and at times we are more open than pro-youth as the parents are invited to get involved .
“Next season our goal is to compete for the league title and have good runs in the cups. We start training on the 17th of July at our home park in
Lochwinnoch (Viewfield Rovers Am), the lads have been given an off season training program as it is important that they come to training fit.”
"As well a goalkeeping coach, we have added a full time First Aid/ treatment person, as we are trying to run the team as professional as possible.”
“Donna Hunter has had experience at the junior level and I'm sure will be a great addition to the management team. We also have a full time
goalkeeper coach in David McDade. David worked with our keepers last season and as we are in the need of 2 goalkeepers for the upcoming season
will continue to do so. We also hope to add another member to our coaching staff in the near future.”
The club have also had the fantastic news, which they shared with Youth Football Scotland, of the call up for Scotland of young Matthew Solomons (pictured, centre of bottom row).
It shows that the club have an eye for talent and that they are teaching kids the right way and this has been noticed.
With the call up for young Matthew, it shows all who play at any level for the club just what can be achieved with hard work and proper guidance, the rewards are there and dreams can be achieved at all levels.
As with the other sides at St.Mirren Youth Football Club, Jimmy’s side have also shown that they are a side for the future and this club deserve all the success that will surely come their way.
Entry 5 | 25th May 2011
Part Four - The Future is Bright
Despite the recent set-back’s the club still have had some positive news to share with me, as one of their players has been called up to represent Scotland at Under 19 level, much to the delight of his coach Jimmy Logue and everyone at the club.
“The benefits of playing your football at a good club in a good environment under good coaching brings out the best of the individual”, says a proud Jimmy Logue.
“This is the case with Mathew Solomons as he has been with the club since it began and took over the captaincy in the middle of last season. Mathew is absolutely delighted to have this opportunity and he has worked as all of our lads do very hard to attain the chance to represent Scotland at this level.”
“What is also unique is that Mathew was born in England and is an avid Tottenham (pictured, right) supporter! Mathew is a central defender and leads the team by example in his captaincy; he is a very strong defender and loves a challenge. At the same time Mathew comes from a very nice family and that shows up as he respects what he is asked to do from our coaches without hesitation and gets along with the rest of the players with no problem.”
”The club has all kinds of players at different age groups being linked with senior clubs and I am sure that there will be other lads coming through and representing their country. However, at the moment we as coaches are very proud Mathew's accomplishments.”
With call up’s to the Scotland Under 19 squad for Mathew and various other players being looked at, it does so what can be achieved in youth football at a club like St.Mirren Youth FC and all this is with very limited resources!
The coaches and everyone behind the behind the scenes who give up their time for the cause of Grassroots football at St.Mirren Youth Football Club who want to see youth and young kids of all ages prosper can you imagine what would happen to the dreams of hundreds of kids if the costs are not kept affordable for football, training and hiring of facilities?
I will leave the last words to Frank, a man who I only met for the first time recently but who has a passion and a vision for football that rubs off throughout his whole club and a man worth listening to.
“I think development overtakes winning! Winning at a young age is not important.
"What is important is coming and playing, learning and enjoying yourself, if you are not enjoying yourself then don’t come, go and find something that suits you!
“Don’t get me wrong it is nice when you win and the kids like to win but at a young age it is not the be all and end all, I would prefer to see my team going out and playing in the right manner and hopefully this is the philosophy throughout the club.
“If anyone thinks its easy running a club like ours and would like to give it a try, be my guest!”
Entry 4 | 17th May 2011
Part Three Going back to my (Grass) Roots
After looking at St.Mirren Youth Football Club last year and all that they have achieved under Frank Sweeney, Stephen Mann and Alistair Anderson, I decided to get back in touch with the guys to see if they had anything else they wanted to share with me?
In my previous conversation with Frank he spoke of how his dreams and aims were developing the club to allow them prosper to their full potential.
He has brought in new coaches to add to their existing staff of coaches and watched their brand new Under 15 team succeed in their first season, introduced Renfrewshire only girls team and gained sponsorship from prominent local businesses like Waites Living Space, Carrillon, BASF, Xscape Braehead (pictured, right) Partnerships for shirt sponsorship.
Some of the problems they faced a year ago have been brought to my attention again, the main focus being facilities!
There are just not decent facilities for clubs like St.Mirren Youth Football Club these days and that is not helped when the Jenny’s Well pitch that the club use has recently been vandalised and also the prices at Glasgow sports centres have risen from £37.50 to £70 for a two hour training session.
In Renfrewshire, some training facilities have risen from £35 to over £50 for a two hour training session, however if you are looking to book an 11 a side pitch that has risen from £40 to £125 by Renfrewshire council.
If these hikes in prices continue, clubs like St, Mirren Youth Football club and others up and down the country will lose many young players and the talent that they have spent bringing through the ranks, will be lost to the game!
People are spending too much time worrying about teams at the high level in the Scottish game, when the Grassroots side of the game in our country has been put on the back burner.
The facility at Toryglen also has its good and bad points, there is no question that it is a fantastic facility but that too has seen prices go up.
At St.Mirren Youth Football Club, they lease the playing fields at Jenny’s Well and they have been trying to redevelop and regenerate the pitches there, they have ambitious plans but have stumbled upon set backs in recent weeks that are not of their own making.
Extensive damage has been caused to the Jenny’s Well Playing Fields in Paisley by thoughtless vandals who used the pitches as a race track.
Frank Sweeney, who has been taking teams of boys and girls to the Jenny’s Well pitches for more than a decade, “The place has been decimated. The people on the bikes have left so many deep track marks behind that it looks like Central Station. “
“Our pitches are now unplayable and that will probably be the case for the remainder of the season.
“For a few hours of amusement, these thoughtless thugs have put us, and the 200 kids who use the pitches, out of the game.”
The young players will now be forced to look for other pitches to play their home games.
Frank hit out: “There is no way we can play or train on those pitches with them in that state.
“This now puts a huge strain on the club financially at a time when money is tight.
“We do not have the resources or sufficient manpower to repair the damage caused.”
This was the last thing the club needed as they have outlined ambitious plans to look at making the Jenny’s Well pitches a home of their own.
This will enable them to develop their talented young players in better surroundings.
Entry 3 | 4th May 2011
Part Two we speak to coaches Iain MacMillan and Will Devlin.
Iain: I was quite impressed after my first meeting with Frank and Stephen. The two guys showed a real passion for what they wanted to achieve for the club and how they were going to try and achieve it. It is a family setup and everybody is encouraging and supportive from all the coaching staff, to the parents of the players who take a real interest. Every body in the setup commit a lot of their spare time and hard work with the sole aim in giving kids and youths the opportunity to play football and be able to develop them as best they can.
From my own point of view, I was looking for a setup that was going to allow me coach and give me good experience of being able to coach a team. It has worked out the way as I had hoped and really enjoying it.
Will: After meeting both Stephen and Frank I was impressed with the whole set up. A few things impressed me about Stephen and Frank was their passion, commitment and determination to help the development of kid’s progress and help the community as a whole.
Frank and Stephen allowed myself and Iain to run the under 15s which enabled us to express our ideas to how we wanted our squad of players to play.
How did you both become involved with St.Mirren Youth FC?
Iain: During Easter last year the club were advertising for coaches for the start of this current season. They were looking for new coaches to take charge of different age levels. I applied to the advert and was asked to come down to training one night, where Frank and Stephen gave me a talk about the club.
Will: Was reading through the evening times and happened to come across an advertisement for St Mirren Youth FC looking for volunteer coaches. I applied to the advert and received a call to meet both Frank and Stephen at Linwood sports centre for a meeting.
What made you decide to take up football coaching?
Iain: I happened to bump into my mate I grew up with in ASDA at Christmas 2006. We lost touch when I moved house in 2000. We caught up and he is currently a coach. He said I would really enjoy it and I should go and do my badges. At first, I thought he was joking but he was serious. He said you’ll really enjoy it and he knew how interested I was in football from our younger days when we were growing up. I said I would think about it. I thought about it for a few days and I went and done the 3 levels in the children and youth pathway that year and here I am today.
From an early age I was keen on football. During school and after school football was the only sport the majority of us played. When I was at school I did have aspirations like many kids to become a football player but unfortunately, due to my heart condition I couldn’t play competitive football.
Will: After a stint in Australia visiting my uncle and seeing the enjoyment that he had of coaching kids and seeing kids progress to another level. I decided I wanted to help kids and help them progress to another level that so enrolled in the Early touches badge in Australia and got involved in a few coaching sessions and really enjoyed coaching the kids. I have now gained up to level 3 of the youth and hope to
Gain my level 4 next year.
I have always been keen football player, have been since school days during which played for Glasgow schools and had trials for the Scotland schools national side, in 2000 was asked to trail down at Sunderland for 6 weeks and like every kid had dreams of making a career out of football although played for Raith Rovers was lucky to have been around a professional set up and seen what it needs to get to that level
Both of you have only recently started out coaching, how are you enjoying it?
Iain: I’m really enjoying it. There is a lot to learn, massive amounts to learn and hopefully this opportunity given to me by the club will allow me to try and become a decent coach.
At the moment, especially, at this level and just starting out, the best way is to learn off experienced people, by that I mean attend coaching events and workshops supplied mainly by the SFA, seek advice from guys who are either in the game or have been. We have coaches at the club and guys like Frank, Stephen, Alistair Anderson, Wullie Pettigrew, Mac Macaulay and Jimmy Logue where you can seek advice from as well. At this moment, your learning as you go along, getting advice from the people I have just mentioned can only make you become better. I would hope that we are trying to teach the group of players we have, the right things and good habits of the game. Still have a massive amounts to learn and hopefully I will.
Will: Really glad I got involved in coaching, although there are loads to learn and also a lot to take in to dealing with different things i.e. players, parents, finance, training, training facilities. All of which will give me good grounding to becoming the coach that I aspire to be.
With this being the first coaching role that have been involved in then any bits of information from it being from Frank, Stephen other coaches involved with St Mirren Youth FC or the SFA coaches then its all taken on board as any information from experienced coaches is very much appreciated.
What do you both look for in a player?
Iain: Correct attitude and a willing to learn. I would never turn anybody down if they wanted to play football. Especially at this level should encourage the younger kids to play more football.
We got to get them out and interested. If they are interested and willing to learn, then we as coaches need to develop that as best we can.
Will: My job as a coach is to develop kids, never reject kids from playing football and coming to enjoy themselves. But to develop kids then kids themselves have got to have the correct attitude and be willing to learn.
By correct attitude, the kids have got to go and practise after training do the right things, rest at the right times, eat the right food, listen to the coaches. What you will find is that the kids, who do the above, go and make it to a decent level in the game. Our job is to get the kids who haven’t got the attitudes mentioned above to achieve those things and to do that we got to make kids come and enjoy there training session and encourage them to do the above.
(Will and Iain with their Under 15s squad)
What is the overall aim for St.Mirren Youth FC in general?
Iain: As Frank has probably alluded to, the main aim for the club on whole is to improve and develop players and give them the opportunity to play football. At the end of the day if we can help any of these guys try and establish themselves to get noticed, then we have done our job. That is the aim for the club on a whole.
We are here to try and get these guys interested in football and hopefully be able to get them to a good standard to be able go on and develop further.
We hope to have a team that carry out the basic requirements required to be successful football. Players need to be comfortable on the ball. If you look at youth players abroad today and you see there passing and control of the ball, it’s on a different level from us. Why?? Because they get taught the basics at an early age.
It’s the basics that let us down in this country. At the moment we are teaching guys in our team basic passing or controlling drills that maybe they should have been taught at an earlier age. We are trying to develop and teach the guys good habits and hopefully when they play they take what they have been taught into the game.
Will: The aim for the club is to develop footballers and mould them into decent players that makes senior clubs want to come and take our players. My job to develop these kids and get them to a higher standard.
That is the emphasis of the whole club is the more players coming through the club and moving up to senior clubs then the better it is for the club.
Trying to get our guys to make the simple pass and always be on the move and carrying out the basic requirements to be a footballer. Personally kids in this country are so far behind kids abroad when it comes to the basic passing, dribbling, control drills. The emphasis abroad is to be in control of the ball and to feel comfortable; we are trying to implement that to our age group. Also kids in Scotland take the lazy option by that I mean they make a pass and admire it where as there first thought should be to get into a space to receive the ball again. We are trying to implement that into our squad
As Iain has said the basics are what are letting the country down, kids should be taught the basics from an early age. But once this happens then Scotland in a whole will always be behind in terms of development of kids.
What do you both think is missing in Grassroots football today and what can be done to help?
Iain: More money should be made available and more pitches and facilities to play in the winter. Not enough considering the many boys club leagues out there. I don’t think enough pro clubs actually take an interest on the hard work that gets done by many people at this level. The talent is out there, but I don’t think it’s scouted properly.
If they could open more facilities around Scotland like the regional football centre at Toryglen then you would see a major difference in attracting youngsters to play, that’s the kind of facility that has been missing.
As a youth you get frustrated and disappointed when your match is called off due to the weather and there comes a stage when you become less and less interested and eventually take up other interests and fall away from the game the older you get.
Will: I feel that there is a sever lack of money available to not just senior clubs but to boys clubs as well, feel that the government could give such an amount to the SFA to spread between senior clubs at youth level and also to boys club because lets face it boys club it the start of the football cycle. That’s where your McFadden’s, Fletcher, McCormack’s started there football careers and unless there is someway of helping boys clubs then in time there will become a time where there will be no boys clubs around cause kids are away playing there game consoles etc. and it ill set Scotland further back in development
There are thousands of boys out there who would have made the grade and helped Scotland a better football nation, but due to lack of finance which results in senior clubs neglecting there youth policy then these kids have fell by the wayside.
Firstly I think every one knows that there is such a lack of facilities in Scotland, once the government give money to build more facilities like the one at Toryglen where there are a load of 3rdgeneration parks and indoor facilities then kids will lose interest in playing and the kids will go and play there computer consoles, standing round street corners and getting into bother. Think Scotland with the way winter is and the weather then going to 3rd generation parks and indoor facilities then in a whole that would beneficial rather than a grass pitch during the winter and knowing by the middle of the week that the game is likely to be off.
Secondly is the standards off coaching, personal opinion is that there are coaches out there taking teams who are more interested in themselves than the development of there squad.
By that I mean the coaches are more interested in winning trophies and tournaments etc rather than development of kids which is also holding kids development back, that’s where I see the SFA possibly coming in with there regional development officers and assessing coaches at different times of the year, its all to easy for a coach to turn up to a seminar run by the SFA get involved in the drills but not take them in, they get there certificate but then go to there club and there first thought is to run the kids up and down hills where is the benefit in that..
Thirdly I think from certain age levels there should be an emphasis on just pure development and not on winning, kids should learn how to pass, receive, control, head a ball and feel comfortable when in possession. But I feel kids are under pressure to punt the ball as far to the oppositions goal and helm the opposition into there area. But once kids get to an age range they are struggling with the basic skills of football.
What about the current state of the game, do you think that more could be done at grassroots level to help aid in the skill and youngsters of today?
Iain: Yeah definitely, I think you got to have a different outlook on how you rear players from an early age. Everybody has to be pulling in the same direction. You see things happening that make you think.
Kids under the age of 15 should not be thinking about winning. At an early age you got encourage the kids and keep encouraging them and get them interested. Make it fun and enjoyable. They should be learning the basics of the game like passing, controlling etc. Time should be spent improving their skills on the ball and make sure they are comfortable. We don’t do this enough at this level. Everybody is too keen on winning at all costs.
There has got be structured outlook to allow players to prosper and give them the best opportunity. After speaking to Frank, you’ll probably know what he is trying implement to this setup. It will be interesting over the next few years to see how the new SFA development plan takes shape. It’s long overdue and hopefully now we will start to see a change in attitude in the way kids and youths are taught the game today.
Will: Absolutely. Think every one knows its time for change. I included at the very top as well. Everyone involved in youth football has got to be pulling in the same direction. My personal feeling on how to structure and make the game better are that kids should be playing 4 aside from an early age then moving onto 5-6 asides with indoor facilities like Tory glen then these 5-6 asides can be played, gradually moving up to 7-8 asides during which the emphasis is technique development eventually moving onto 11 a sides when they reach the ages of 14 –15. By doing this it enable kids to get more touches on the ball and more comfortable and when they reach 14-15 then that’s when structuring them on where to play and positions become more important along with their continued technique development.. Also feel that in the school curriculum that there should be time where coaches come from SFA and take classes for a few hours of training a day, most schools have astro pitches or access to games halls so kids could be involved in coaching sessions during the school curriculum whether it be after school. More kids play the more they will become more technically better. It all comes down to getting facilities and finding their right coach who is willing to develop kids.
The story Iain was talking about that I have which has resulted me on saying that kids should play at 4-5-6-7-8 a side. One day was watching a game go ahead on an 11 aside park with the full size goals between an under 9 team the result 20-0. Soon as the opposition got into the box they were putting the ball to either side of the goalkeeper and it was a goal. Any shot on target then it was in. That’s why I feel that should revert to small sided games and get kids playing and enjoying themselves.
Any where abroad you’ ll find that there are kids playing 4 - 5 aside games gaining touches, being comfortable. The new development plan being brought out by the SFA this year should be interesting and hopefully various continental youth setups, in Spain, Holland especially were investigated and incorporated into this plan.
In giving you this insight to a club like St.MirrenYouth FC and hearing from guys like Frank, Iain and Will, I hope that it helps you understand what goes into the running of a club like this and no doubt it will be the same for clubs up and down the country, not enough decent training facilities, indoor and outdoor, not enough parks with lights and the need for more facilities like the fantastic Toryglen facility in Glasgow when during the bad weather even clubs from the SPL and other divisions took the chance to use it.
Young footballers of today are the stars of tomorrow, look at young Stephen McGinn who has come through this setup and has gone on to play for Watford,
Given time and energy the club could unearth more gems like him.
More recently, St. Mirren Youth Football Club has partnered with an English Championship side to train-up young Buddies to become soccer stars.
Preston’s youth development department have already forged relationships in Ireland and are switching their focus to Scotland.
Club treasurer andunder-19s coach Wullie Pettigrew said:
“We are delighted that Preston North End FC are working with our club. We have strong links with them as ourunder-19s won the Preston Easter Tournament last year.”
Preston North End coach Chris McGrail said:
“This is the first soccer school that the club has run in Scotland and there are a few players who have already caught the eye.”
“We are spreading the net wider, promoting their image of the club, whilst at the same time trying to find more talent.”
“We are delighted to be running these soccer schools along with St Mirren Youth FC.”
Entry 2 | 27th April 2011
Part One The Frank Sweeney Interview
Frank Sweeney (pictured, right): "We changed the name at the beginning of season 2009-2010 and there were probably two or three reasons for that but probably the biggest reason for that was St. Mirren FC themselves. We used to be their official boys club, hence the FCBC but with the advent of pro-youth, this means that you can no longer be officially involved with a Scottish professional club. A number of years ago, before the creation of the pro-youth system, the professional clubs had their own boys or youth teams. When the pro-youth set-up came in, they decided there was no need for the 'football club's boys club', so we decided to make a clean break with our own badge and called ourselves St. Mirren Youth Football Club because, as you see from the girls outside, we are not just a boys club. It has been my aim to have girls football teams also at this club. There are girls dotted throughout this club, but what we don’t have is a girls' team from the age of 12 and up. We are hopeful however that at the end of the season that can change.
When I joined, within a year or two I was the secretary of the whole club and one of the things that was always brought up at meetings was that we have to get the kids in earlier; this club is doing that. I had a vision that the club should be growing and bringing kids in younger. We used to start at Under 13’s but we had to start it from scratch as it is getting harder and harder because some of the kids are already with a team when they are younger. So about seven years ago when I was still running my Under 21’s along with help from Alistair Anderson as no one else wanted to do it.
I started an Under 11’s team and Under 10’s which would go Under 12’s and Under 11’s but after a couple of years we decided that this was not working and we would start an extra one. In seven years I have got them down to Mini Kickers - that is between the ages of 5-7 year olds. It just means that we have our Soccer 4’s or our Mini Kickers and it leads to seven a side then eleven a side games, so there is a pathway for every player to go all the way through the club without having to leave it for any reason other than to try somewhere else. But we believe there is no reason to go anywhere else as everything is already here for them.
We make the kids feel wanted and you see them around the club with their little kits on and smiles on their little faces, but it is not just the kids who are happy with the club. The parents know their children are at a well run club which has the SFA Quality Mark.”
Many folk will be wondering what that is?
“Well it is an accreditation that you get from the SFA and in our club we have a guy called Stephen Mann, our Chairman, Coach Development Co-ordinator, Girls Co-ordinator and Head Coach of the Under 12s. He has been a great source in helping us get the Quality Mark, recruiting coaches and preparing them fit for purpose as well as taking on some fund raising for the club - basically giving us a more professional and quality assured backbone whilst not any association with a professional club.
It really is what it says, it’s a mark of quality about your club. How much coach education they have done? Are they fully disclosed? All ours are and we do encourage them to do the SFA Pathway right through to Early Touches development and levels 1,2,3,4,they can go as far as they want. We only had so many teams at the club; maybe seven or eight teams when I first came and now we cover 13 age ranges from 5, 6 and 7 year olds up to Under 21s with 18 playing squads and it has been a long time coming! From this spring we'll have an all girl's team competing for the very first time. This is an Under 13s squad they have started really well winning their first three matches of the season, which runs March to November.
It has been a lot of work, but seeing the kids progress all the way through from maybe when I have started at the club, hand them on to other coaches and then seeing them maybe three or four games later where they are bigger and stronger players. Also, maybe they are playing for the region or someone like that - it does give you a certain amount of satisfaction.
On Grassroots football well I think they are starting to get it right, it has been a long hard slog. As you know in Scottish football there is a lot of different factions: the SPL, the SFA, the SYFA, the Juniors, the Amateurs, the Schools - you name it. The point is we have too many and they all work to different agendas. Over the years there have been a lot of changes. A lot of associations have joined together or work in partnership and it has become more organised.
Towards a national structure and just recently the SFA have been trying to get a Player Pathway sorted between certain age groups. You play Soccer 4's, then it leads into Soccer 7's and then it leads into a fully fledged eleven a side game with a transition year, and it looks as if for the very first time this is going to happen next year! I have been to meetings with Jim Fleeting and David Little. So has Stephen Mann, and he heard David Little explain (the SYFA) are going to be adopting the SFA, and the SYFA are going to be on the same page... so yes we are getting there but there is still a bit to go.
Since I started running my team, I started at under 9's then I went all the way up to under 21's with them 15 or 16 seasons and from that time there has been a lot of changes! We started at 9 year old playing 11 a side football. A few years later we introduced 7 a side football and now you have soccer 4's it is getting better but it is taking a long time.
The basic thing that we are crying out for is decent training facilities, indoor and outdoor. There are not enough astrograss parks with lights, and we need more facilities like Toryglen.
I have had to split my mini kickers in two-my 2003-04 will be on one night and my 2002's will be another night just because there are so many of them and all I have got is two wee halls. It is not even a games hall, it is two wee halls. I don't know what the answer is? I know that there are only so many facilities to go around and to get a slot in a games hall is like cutting hen's teeth - unless you can access decent indoor facilities for very young footballers, it is very difficult. "
Have things changed since the days of screaming Dad's at the side of the pitch?
Frank Sweeney: “I think development overtakes winning! Winning at a young age is not important. It is coming, playing, doing the right things and enjoying yourself. If you are not enjoying yourself then don't come, go and find something that suits you! Don't get me wrong, it's nice when you win and kids definitely like to win but it is not the be all and end all! I would prefer to see my team going out there, playing in the right manner and getting beat narrowly than going out there and hammering a team where they were all over the place with just a big boots up the park. It is a passion game; kids have got to be comfortable on the ball. You see the Europeans and they are all comfortable on the ball, they don't just belt the ball up the park!
You have got to be able to pass it. If you cannot pass a ball then when you get to the age of under 13's 14s then you will get found out. I would like to think that the philosophy right throughout the club is get the ball down and play football. From what I have seen, most of my teams is like to play that way; we don’t play route one football! Even if we are in trouble or losing the game, it is best if you can build from the back. In our Under 12’s our goalkeeper cannot launch the ball far, so we work on the ability to pass it out!
The method we use to recruit coaches to this club is by advertisement. Lately we have been advertising but when the Under 21’s players finished, I had nine coaching football teams created for me by developing these young men into coaches. One or two of them have went to university and have moved away from the area, so I have lost a couple but I have still got about 6 or 7 coaching for the club out of a squad of maybe about 18 and that is not bad and some of these boys have been with me for a number of years. We are not just saying cheerio to players when they are finished at 21’s or whatever. If they want to come back and help the next set of players then they are more than welcome.
It is something that we looked at very carefully; there is a downside at having younger guys coaching football teams, especially if they are at university and they do have to make it in the big bad world after a certain amount of time, sometimes the jobs are not in Paisley! If they can find a coaching spot anywhere else then it is no problem. I would recommend them because they are all fully disclosed and they have all done their coaching badges. It was only last season that we lost a team and two coaches because they did not want to be disclosed and they could not be bothered doing their coaching badges and they moved away to another club who allowed them to do that. I think that kind of thing is bad; it is bad for football and it does leave a club open to scrutiny. Hence the quality mark, we are a quality mark club and it is our business to make sure that everybody within the club is fit for purpose.
I think everybody could do with a little more help with equipment. Infact there are a lot more avenues out there if you just go and look for them.”
Awards for All?
“Some local councils have money put aside for good causes, be it sport or whatever. We have had Awards for All for quite a lot of our teams and Sports Match is another good one, like the local authorities they make money available, it is just a matter for qualifying for it, you just have to put a good case forward for it.
A few years ago we heard that Jenny’s Well was up for grabs after another team had folded and it took me the best part of two years to secure it but we have had it now for a decade and it has been great. The council maintain the park mostly but there comes a time of the year when they stop cutting and recently in the last couple of years we have bought a tractor and some other implements and we do a lot of the work ourselves, a liner, a tractor, a roller, that sort of thing but it all costs money. It doesn’t grow on trees, you don’t get it for nothing, it has got to be bought and paid for and that is maybe why the SFA (Paul McNeill the regional manager, Danny Bisland and Brian McLaughlin) are trying to get us some portacabins to replace one that we are currently hiring. It costs us £60 a month so if we got a couple of portacabins-they have to be metal containers so that no one can burn them down unfortunately-but we have not really had any luck and they are trying their best that if anything becomes available, we will be first in line to get it, it would be good if you could get something at a decent price but everybody is looking to make money!"
Bringing the right kind of coaches to the club is vital for the club and how not only they but the kids develop and through advertisement Frank was able to bring in two enthusiastic young coaches to St.Mirren Youth FC to run the Under 15’s side and both have already had rave reviews from Frank for their efforts but what was their first impressions of the club?
Entry 1 | 14th April 2011
The importance of Grassroots football cannot be highlighted enough in the modern game. I have always been interested in football at all levels and when a friend of mine invited me to come along to a training session to speak with a few of the coaches at the club and help me understand just how much hard work goes into running a club or coaching at a club.
Going along to St.Mirren Youth FC, you began to see where it all begins for most young players at boys’ club level, where young boys
aim to impress hoping to catch the eye of pro youth scouts. This is where they learn their trade at a young age and this is where a club plays an important part in a young players development for the future but the player himself must have the correct attitude in the first place and if they do apply themselves in the correct manner. This can go along way in helping them achieve their long term goals.
I spoke to Frank Sweeney at St Mirren Youth Football Club and two coaches in particular concentrating on finding and developing young talent. We hear the views from Iain MacMillan and Will Devlin, two coaches brought into St Mirren this season to head up their new under 15 team. Iain and Will outline their aims for their team, what they hope to achieve in terms of player development, what they hope to bring to the overall setup and their views in general on the youth scene in Scotland.
Frank had served his time with a couple of other clubs before ending up where he is today at St.Mirren Youth FC and it was while he was in charge of a team called Williamsburgh United that he was noticed and offered the chance to come to the then St. Mirren FCBC. This effectively meant - Football Club Boy’s Club. The club was founded by the friends of St. Mirren (Ian Brown, Eddy Devine, Stephen Ferrier and others) Tony Fitzpatrick, former player and manager of the professional club of the same name became the Patron of the club in 2009-10 and is a big supporter of what the club are trying to achieve.
There was something in the way that Frank handled the team and how he showed himself on the touchline that really shone through and it would be for the good of his new club. Frank had a vision but before his vision even took place his club had a change of name from St. Mirren FCBC to St.Mirren YFC.