Stonehaven Madrid YFC finished top of the ADJFA B League after a close contest with Thistle FC who only finished 3 points behind. We got the chance to catch up with the coach of Stonehaven, Marc Andrew, to find out the secrets to their success.
The feeling of joy after winning the league is something that can't be understated, it is the pinnacle of footballing achievements, working hard all season to earn the points that finish you on the top. Stonehaven Madrid were no different about their feelings after winning the league. Marc said, "We were absolutely delighted. We had a rather unfortunate draw in the Batt Cables league qualifiers last summer which saw three 7 a-side A league teams competing for one place in the 11 a-side A League. Unfortunately we ended up in second place and started our footballing careers in the B League. Despite this initial disappointment, we set ourselves a target of promotion to the A League, so to win the title was an added bonus. It looked like it had slipped away from us but to win it on the final day was a fantastic achievement for us as a team and club. We've worked hard as a team for a number of years and it feels like all the hard work has paid off. With the benefit of hindsight starting in the B League isn't such a bad thing as you transition from development to competitive football." The boys worked hard all year for this achievement and for it to pay off shows their dedication and passion they had all season.
Picking a favourite moment from the whole season is a tough task for any coach, and Marc was no different. He commented, "I think it would have to be the scenes in the changing room on Sunday when news filtered through that Peterhead had beaten our nearest rivals, Thistle FC. The place erupted and the parents outside soon realised the result had gone our way. I must pay tribute to Thistle's tremendous season. They gave us a real battle all the way to the final day and it could have easily gone either way." The competition between Stonehaven and Thistle FC lasted all season and they were evenly matched throughout, but only one team can win, and that was Stonehaven.
Even after a successful season, the squad still had challenges to face and Marc said this about their biggest challenge. "It was probably our Colony Park Cup semi-final match against Westdyke CC. We had knocked a couple of A League sides out of the competition on our way to the semi-final but we knew we were in for a tough shift against an exceptionally strong team who have swept all before them in the A League this season. We were doing okay until half-time but were over run in the second half. Having enjoyed such a strong season in the B League it was quite a sobering experience for both coaches and players. We were a bit concerned that the defeat might knock the boys' confidence but they bounced straight back and we've gone on to seal the title which is a testament to the boys' attitiude. This result also tells us we'll need to push on to hold our own in a very competitive A League next season."
Having a successful squad requires more than just skill with the ball at your feet, there are plenty factors that come into play when building a strong team. Marc commented, "I think the driving force behind the team's success is our team spirit and comradery. Out of a squad of 18, 15 attend Mackie Academy in Stonehaven, the other three attend Mearns Academy just down the road in Laurencekirk so we're a very tight unit. The vast majority of the boys have been with us since they were 7 or 8 so we all know each other really well. We have always pushed the boys to be competitive but have tried to ensure that the boys enjoy their gootball at the same time. The fact that we have some very decent players also helps." Having all the playwers on the same page and working together to push themselves to a league title is a great way to find success and Stonehaven have made that work.
After a league win, the possibilities for the future are great and the sky's the limit once you have found success. Marc said this about the plans for Stonehaven's future. "We hope to hold onto the boys who won us the title and will be working hard over the summer to ensure we hit the ground running next season in the A League. We know from previous experience that we'll be up against some very strong teams but we hope that we can compete and build on the great season we've had. Ultimately, our aim would be to consolidate our position in the A League over the coming seasons. Stonehaven will struggle to compete against the "elite" teams due to our geographic location and limited pool of players but we hope that the prospect of A League football will keep the boys motivated and Stonehaven Youth an attractive option." High hopes for the boys at Stonehaven but after a league win, the boys' confidence will be through the roof so anything is possible next season.
Marc had some final comments to add, thanking everyone who helped this season. "On behalf of the coaches, players and parents of Stonehaven Madrid we'd like to thank all the players in the Under 13's B League for a great season of football. Opposition coaches, players and parents have been first class and the games have been played in the right spirit. We wish them all the luck for next season. Also, i'd like to credit Stuart Robertson, my co-manager and coach. Stuart is also co-manager of Cowie Thistle FC who have just won the Aberdeenshire Amateur FA Division One and have been promoted back into the Aberdeenshire Amateur Premier Division. Cowie Thistle are part of the Stonehaven Community Football Club (an SFA Community Award Club) and a number of Cowie's players have come through the ranks of Stonehaven Youth FC. The community club structure offers Stonehaven Youth FC players a clear pathwayfrom juvenile to amateur and junior football and also senior ladies football on the girls side."
Class act from Marc and the boys at Stonehaven Madrid, and we wish them luck in the A League next season.