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CLUB PROFILE: Buckie Thistle FC Youth Development on a mission

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Buckie Thistle Football Development is on the up with a pathway from P1 all the way into the first team at Buckie Thistle FC who participate in the Scottish Highland Football League & won the championship last season.

The primary section is for 5-12 year olds & they all train at the astro turf at Buckie Thistle FC in the winter & also Merson Park, home of North Region Junior outfit Buckie Rovers FC. Buckie Thistle aim to introduce young players to a sport they can enjoy throughout their lives, the club aim to do this in a safe, well-organised & enjoyable environment. There is 160 kids registered in the primary section at the Victoria Park club. Teams train at the facilities four nights a week.

In addition, the club also follow SFA guidelines & recommendations, at the coaches discretion, a team may be selected to play in the summer & winter leagues alongside attending tournaments around the area. Buckie Thistle take into account the child’s attendance, behaviour & performance before making selection decisions. The Primary section is well established & managed.

Buckie Thistle Football Development set an annual subscription fee every year for players at the club. It’s £100 if you are a new player then £75 annually if you are continuing at the club & £37.50 for the second child in a family group. This covers indoor/winter training, buying equipment, insurance, coach training, kits & Christmas presents.

Head of Primary at Buckie Thistle Football Development, Melissa Smith said, “It’s all about enjoyment & development & getting the right things into the kids I think, getting the passion & the drive & the skills will come.

“It’s all about grassroots football with us & then it goes to the youths & then the pathway into the 1st team at Buckie so we have a good umbrella however we just need to get it tidied up a wee bit, there is good links with other clubs such as Buckie Rovers & Buckie clubs who play in the Moray Welfare League clubs as well.

“We have great facilities here, we have the astroturf here & we have Merson Park which is some of the best parks in the area. We just need to get it more structured & get a better pathway for attracting more people to stay with us because we have a good set-up here in Buckie.

“We are hoping to have more links with the Buckie Thistle 1st team with some of their players coming to our training sessions as that is what the players can aspire to; we are going to have mascots on the pitch for our home games in the better weather. They will be ball boys as well so there is representation of the young players & people can see that the youngsters are linked to the club.”

The club hold an annual Springbank Tournament in May each year for the primary section & the club revealed they have plans to hold a football festival in memory of David Parro Findlay, who was a youth coach at Buckie Thistle who died in December 2017, aged 53.

Smith added, “Parro had & the drive & commitment along with the passion, some of the players came to the Springbank tournament last year, the manager Graeme Stewart was getting married at the time however we need more players to come, it’s one day & they know in advance when it is, at the end of the day, Buckie is representing football that day.”

The director of football at Buckie Thistle, Greame Tallis identified that the club needed to fully understand the pathway development process in order to provide improvements to encourage & support youth development at the club.

The vision and mission is to provide a recognised pathway for the development of local footballing talent, from grass roots level upwards based on the ability to play, in order to provide the best opportunity to succeed in football. The currently define local as being within a 15-20 mile radius of Buckie.

The plans are fully supported by  Buckie Thistle manager Graeme Stewart and his coaching staff with priority at present being to provide support to the Youth Development Seniors (U-13's, U-15's and U-17's), inclusive of identification of a new Head of Youth Development and continued football coach recruitment to strengthen the existing coaching team.

Buckie Thistle also envisage the involvement of current first team players and coaches in this support process and potentially former stalwarts of the club in due course. There is renewed optimism about the youth development programme at the club but they need to make best endeavours to deliver.

The Under 13s participate in the Moray Firth Youth league which is non-competitive along with the Under 15s Highland League which is also non-competitive. The Under 17s North Highland League is an 11 team league & contains teams such as Brora Rangers, Wick Academy, Clachnacuddin & Fort William FC. Buckie are currently 9th in the league.

Buckie also take part in the Aberdeenshire League for the Under 20s which features teams like Fraserburgh FC, Deveronvale FC, Cove Rangers FC & Formartine United FC.

Robbie Bruce who stays in nearby Cullen was an ex product of the youth set up at Buckie Thistle having also been on the books at Elgin City & Aberdeen FC. Bruce is currently on a football scholarship in America. The teenager was called up to the Scottish Schools Under 18s team last year, the first time a player from Buckie Community High School to get a call up since Mark Slater back in 1994.

Martin Christie, head of youth development at Buckie Thistle said, “It’s been a busy time, at youth level the plan is to keep producing players, we have produced Robert Scott, Kyle Gauld & Harry Noble & they are all playing Highland League football, I think if any of the players play Highland League then it’s a success story for us.

“The difficulty we have is we have SPFL teams such as Elgin City, Ross County & Aberdeen are always picking up our better players, it’s hard to maintain a higher standard because when they move on you want them to do well & if a bigger club came in for a player we wouldn’t stand in their way.”

David Reid | YFS North Region Journalist
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