South West Region (177)
Having played for one of the first incarnations of the team, Woodwynd Wolves' Dale Young has now been nominated for a Scottish FA Grassroots award. This is a recognition of amongst other things, the development of his players at a youth level before they reach 11-a-side.
"It's also to deal with basic issues in the area as well and just to let them have fun when they're playing football," Dale said.
Working hand in hand with father Colin, Dale was one of the first boys through the system, which saw him involved in the travelling under-19 squad that visited the USA to play in Canton, Michigan for the Canton Cup back in 2010.
Youth Football Scotland also asked a very modest Dale why he thought he had been recognised. "I think I was nominated for the award because of the work that I do with the kids. I don't mean to blow my own trumpet sometimes but I do think I get them to a decent level before they go and play football and I do think I've coached quite a lot of boys in the past that have got on to further levels as well, so I think maybe that's got something to do with it," he said.
Dale’s hard work and determination is clear to anyone involved with the club. "If I win this award it will be everything. It will mean a lot to me because the amount of work and hard work I've put over the past nine years for it all. It would mean everything to me."
But it is not just the Wolves that Dale is involved in. On Monday nights, Dale runs a soccer school called ‘Tekkers’ in Kilwinning. It is free, and any child can join, regardless of whether they play for the Wolves or not.
"All they need to do is turn up. Just turn up to Tekkers on a Monday night and they can start from there," Dale said.
The school teaches skills from all over the world, Dale told us. "It just gives the kids a chance, instead of learning Scottish coaching, a wee bit of variety, and it means that they can learn new skills as well to go home and practice with." As well as learning Brazilian styles of football, there is also Dutch skills and Asian skills which have recently been introduced.
But Dale does not think it will just help young players on the pitch. "It gives them a chance to learn and get new friends as well and interact with different kids," he said. "It gives them more confidence it makes them learn and develop new skills freely on the park that they maybe never tried before in Scottish football."
Good luck to Dale and his team for the upcoming season!
Football can divide opinions. I currently sit next to a colleague who supports Hibs and Manchester United. I support Hearts and Liverpool. Four sets of fans who share more than just a sporting rivalry. But yet we can sit and talk about football all day, because we share a love of the game. It is this love that Community Development officers such as Colin Young have used to help bring communities together and keep kids safe. His work with Police Scotland, the SFA and Woodwynd Wolves FC has benefited the entire area, communicating and interacting with thousands of kids in North Ayrshire.
It started back in 2009, when ‘ACES’ was tasked with helping the area, which Young honestly described as, “a bit of a state”. With help from other coaches, he built a team of under-19s to go and play in a tournament over in Canton, Michigan. They did well and this got the metaphorical, and literal, ball rolling. Young explains, "They [the original u19’s] became a wee bit too old so we started an amateur team for those kids, and some of those kids stayed, and then coached other kids. Other kids wanted to be involved, other kids wanted football teams. So that’s where Woodwynd Wolves came from."
The club was born but wanted to develop further. This is where the SFA started to help, appealing to leagues to try and get their teams involved in the Quality Mark Award Scheme. But for Young, the Quality Mark is not just about building the reputation of the club.
"I think it’s very important. It shows that parents know, we know what we’re talking about. We’re not just somebody off the street. We’ve got all our qualifications, we’ve got all our risk assessments, safety things in place, insurances, disclosures - everything that’s important to parents nowadays," Young said.
There are other benefits of the Quality Mark too, he explains: "We got full sets of strips for the kids which saves us an absolute fortune. They’re good quality stuff, it’s all high brand, quality material. We get access to further training, and we get access to discounted courses as well which all helps introduce new coaches into it."
The safety of the kids is of paramount importance to Young, who was also heavily involved in North Ayrshire’s ‘No Knives, Better Lives campaign’. "We approached Police Scotland about three years ago with a notion of a Wayne Rooney type thing, ‘Street Soccer’, using road signs, buckets, tyres etc. We were going to build a course, and then we were going to take that around schools. The Chief Inspector at the time decided that that would be a great vehicle for the ‘No Knives’ campaign, so he got in contact with them, and we spoke to them. They were more than happy for us to carry that throughout the schools."
Despite initial problems, the campaign went on to be a huge success, with a 57% drop in knife crime and 21% drop in violent crime in six problematic areas within North Ayrshire. In 350 stop and searches carried out, no weapons were found on teenagers. It’s a hugely impressive statistic given the state of affairs just a few years ago.
But it’s not just the youths that ‘ACES’ wanted to target. "We have the Silver Citizens - we’re not allowed to call them ‘pensioners’ - Lunch Club. We have them in for a games day, and we have street dancing on a Thursday," Young said.
The whole community has become involved, even out with football, although that is still one of the most important things to Young.
"If they can go out there and come off with a smile on their face, we feel as if our jobs done. If it’s get to a stage where it’s so competitive that kids are getting worried about playing football, then personally I think that’s the wrong attitude. I think it’s time that we say “right look guys, you’re out there to have fun, regardless of the scores”. I know that’s not easy always to say to kids but really regardless of the scores if they’re coming off with a smile on their face, they’ve enjoyed the training, they’ve enjoyed the football."
Longside BC had a mixed season last year, taking a while to get into the league but finishing on a high with a five game win streak.
Paul Robertson, coach of the 2001 side, said: "We started slowly, easing into the season, some playing 11-a-side for the first time, and took time to adjust to the change."
"However, we finished the season very well winning our last five games, proving that progress was made."
The end of the season came at the wrong time for the side, but they will now look to "start the season how we finished last season".
"We are aiming to finish higher up in the B League and be in contention for the league."
Regarding last season, Paul said: "We were still finding our feet in the 11-a-side game but we are now bigger and stronger, and hope to be more of a force this season. We also hope to bring in some new players and work with the squad and provide a solid future in football for kids in the area."
Transfer talk is all the rage in Longside at the moment, with quick, attacking player Alex Keith said to be the main target for the club.
"We haven't signed anyone yet, however we have invited some players to training over the past few weeks and are keen to strengthen the club," Robertson said.
"We have continued to train throughout the summer holidays, working on fitness and ball skills and have arranged two friendlies before the new season begins."
Good luck to Longside BC for the upcoming season!
Bonnyton Thistle’s 2002s move to GADYFL poses new challenges after their first year at 11-a-side proved to be a successful one. With the debut season at that level bringing a league championship at the first ask for the Ayrshire club. Kenny Henderson, Thistle’s manager, spoke to Youth Football Scotland about the upcoming season.
"On the whole the boys done well, to win the league in our first season at 11 a-side was a fantastic achievement for the boys, there was some low points along the way but in general a fantastic start to competitive football," Henderson said.
With pre-season in full swing, Thistle have approached this season as they would any other despite changing league. "This season we are moving to the Glasgow and District Youth Football League [from the Central Ayrshire League],"Henderson said.
The change of scenery has not altered the preparation going into the new season, the Kilmarnock club’s manager said that they "have approached this season like we would with any other season, with a hard pre-season and a mixture of games against teams from different leagues."
Henderson has the luxury of a title-winning squad that is used to winning already, and after adding two new faces to a settled squad, Henderson hopes that keeping "most of the title winning squad together" will spur on the new signings "to come in and work hard and be patient for their chance in the starting 11."
One issue facing the club will be a lack of knowledge of the league they are going into, with Henderson admitting a lack of certainty over their possible rivals next season. "It’s hard to say who our rivals will be, I would imagine every game will present a challenge in different ways from what we are used to," he said.
Despite this Thistle will be aiming for the top of the league and "while we expect this to be of a better standard than we faced last season" the club is planning for a season where they can "compete and hopefully challenge for honours", Thistle’s manager said.
Good luck to Bonnyton Thistle in the 2015/16 season!
Valspar 2002s are aiming to build on their three cup runs last year by finishing in the top three of the league for the 2015/16 season.
Richard McNulty, manager of the West Coast club, told Youth Football Scotland that the upcoming season will be "challenging" for his side.
However, he drew confidence from the team's fantastic performance in three cup competitions last year, reaching one semi-final and two finals - winning the first of those finals against Prestwick, which McNulty called "the high of the season".
The team had a "slow start" to the season last year, but finished reasonably in their first 11-a-side season. "Adding players midway through the season helped improve the squad and helped to kick off our season," said McNulty, who already had a strong first eleven at his disposal.
At this stage in pre-season the team have added just the one player. However, McNulty insists every player has a part to play, saying: "Every player in the squad is key."
It will be a difficult season to predict for Valspar as it is a brand new league they will play in. But the club, which celebrated its 40th birthday last season, already have first-hand knowledge of some of their competitors.
"Our longest rivals have been AC Irvine. I would expect them to be strong again this year, but there is a whole host of teams capable of winning the league, with Rosebank, Ayr Bosewell, Galston, Tass, and Largs just a few of the names in the frame."
Clearly the league title will be an open affair, with McNulty adding: "I think there will be six to eight teams vying for the top spot."
So how has the head coach prepared his side for what will be a open race for the title?
"We have played some good quality teams in friendlies so far, with a couple more lined up. On the 7th-9th August we travel to Stirling to play in the Loch Lomond festival," which he also described as "fantastic".
Away from the league, Valspar will look to build on their cup success: "We would be looking to reach a cup final and have a decent run in the Scottish Cup, which can be difficult depending on the draw."
Good luck to Ayr Valspar 2002s for the 2015/16 season!
It was so close but yet so far for Tass Thistle FC 2002s, who could have won the Central Ayrshire YFA League and two cups last season.
Thistle manager Sean Docherty spoke to Youth Football Scotland to discuss the campaign just past, and the one ahead.
"It was a decent first season at 11-a-side-football, with the aim at the start of the season being to finish in the top four of the league. Anything else was a bonus," he said.
"The league went down to the last game of the season, which was Tass Thistle v Bonnyton Thistle. Bonnyton won 2-1, making them league champions and ourselves runners up.
“We then got beaten on penalties in the semi-final against Kilmarnock Portland of the William Tracy Cup. Also, we were then beaten 1-0 in extra time in the League Cup final by Galston.”
There was, however, light at the end of the tunnel for Tass Thistle, in a season where, for the most part, they came so close only to fall short. In the CYP Cup final they were finally able to lift a trophy, as they cruised to a 5-2 victory over Galston, leaving them with something to show for their valiant efforts last season.
Still yet to make any new signings for the upcoming season, Docherty is overseeing what has been an enjoyable pre-season so far despite, with friendlies and tournaments waiting ahead before they kick-off the new campaign.
It will certainly be an exciting league next season, with teams going from strength to strength.
"With a bit more consistency about them this year Kilmarnock Portland, Galston United, and Largs Colts could be the teams to watch. Although, saying that, a lot of the other teams are a lot stronger than last season, and it will depend on how each team’s new players settle in to their new teams and how they have prepared for the new season ahead," Docherty said.
"There are a meant to be a few new teams joining our league which I cannot comment on as I have not seen them playing but will make it a very hard league to win this season."
The target however remains the same for Docherty: "The aim this season again will be to finish the season as high in the table as possible and to hopefully reach a cup final if possible at the end of the season."
Good luck to Tass Thistle FC 2002s for the 2015/16 season!
Rory McKenzie is only 21, and is already showing his class at the top level of Scottish football, and like many professionals in the top tier of the SPFL, McKenzie’s first experiences of the game were at youth level.
McKenzie’s career at youth football was hugely important to his development, playing against youth teams from Celtic and Rangers boys that McKenzie told Youth Football Scotland 'were always thought of as head and shoulders above everyone else'.
Joining Kilmarnock at under-13 level, McKenzie started his career in football out in Ayrshire, playing firstly for Caledonia FC before joining up with Troon Thistle, where he played alongside names such as ex-Stoke and Rangers midfielder Jamie Ness.
Following on from his career at youth level, it has been three years since Kilmarnock FC’s McKenzie burst onto the mainstream Scottish football scene. While on loan at League One Brechin City the then 18-year-old scored seven goals in 17 appearances for the Angus-based club.
That spell on loan was followed by a break through into the Kilmarnock first team squad, with McKenzie getting the oft elusive first team football at a young age.
"It was massive," McKenzie said. "At the time I didn’t expect to break through that young. The biggest thing was going out on loan…that was a turning point for me I think."
Now McKenzie is a first-team regular at Kilmarnock, and is relishing the chance to join up with Kris Boyd after the ex-Rangers striker signed for Kilmarnock for the second time in two years. "He was massive, not just for my development but for the team in general," McKenzie said. "last time he was here he scored 22, 23 goals, so for the team he was really important. For me as well he is great to play alongside. He makes myself look good, if I put the ball in the box for him he’ll score goals.” It’s no surprise then that McKenzie is looking forward to the forthcoming season.
Despite a quick detour to the world of golf, McKenzie knew that football was always going to be his main focus.
"[Golf was] perfect me playing golf outside of football, if I’d took golf too serious it would get to me too much. At the time I’d have liked to have gone and studied and played golf in America at the same time, but I don’t think I was ever good enough to turn professional," he said.
Young supporters hold the key to the future of football in our country, and that is no different with Kilmarnock FC.
Killie are a massive influence towards children in their local area, having numerous community football schemes in order to keep young fans connected with the club.
Youth Football Scotland spoke to Youth and Community Education Officer at Kilmarnock FC, Brian Sproul, about the opportunities out there for kids in the area.
"We are very active in the community through schools, we work with the council, we also have summer programmes, which are generally well attended," said Sproul.
"The kids come in from 12-3.30 for older age groups. From one until two we have the Mini Kickers sessions. All you need to do is sign up, come along and its ten pounds for the three and a half hours, the coaches look over them and it is a very relaxed few hours.
"The website give details about how to sign up, as well as on Twitter and Facebook. It’s easy to come into the club and see what it’s all about, and the kids can just turn up on the day and take part."
Killie have received a helping hand in organising all of this, and Sproul felt that the benefits from this support is hugely important.
"The Scottish FA are very supportive of everything that we do at the club, we benefit greatly on the pro youth side, as many of our kids are in the performance schools, which have been very successful so far," Sproul said.
The fans are offered a unique ‘Play on the Pitch’ programme, where they can emulate their favourite Kilmarnock stars and grace the turf of Rugby Park.
"I personally think it is massive that the community can see and then come in and play on the pitch, for young kids to come in on a daily basis and say ‘I played and scored goals into the big net’, it is a massive boost for them," he said.
"Also for our pro youth teams to come and play here, as well as visiting teams, who praise the pitch, it is a big positive for everybody."
The idea began in February, when Killie set up a number of community teams. It now features 200 budding young footballers from the area.
There is a massive emphasis on building relationships between the club and its fans. Sproul touched on this: “It allows the club to have an affinity with the kids. That affinity grows as they get older, they spread the word, basically making them club ambassadors.” he said.
“We are hoping it stops them from going up the motorway to the other clubs in the Glasgow area. It gives up hope to produce local players for the club, and on top of that, supporters for the future.”
Other clubs can certainly learn lessons from this community scheme, and allow the supporters of tomorrow to live a unique experience today.
After an unforgettable 2014-15 season KSC are embracing the new challenges awaiting them in the campaigns to come. The Kilwinning club move up to under 19 level as CAYFA under 17 league champions, having also added the CAYFA League Cup and CYP Regional Cup to their trophy haul.
Manager John Murphy looked back on the season with huge pride, highlighting team spirit and effort as key factors in their success.
"It was a very enjoyable and remarkable season for me as manager of this great bunch of lads. The treble was an amazing achievement and I have no individuals to single out. We have played together as a team, from goalkeeper all the way through to the forwards, and also had a good bench when a change was needed in a game," he told Youth Football Scotland.
"The team have learned to work hard for each other on the park and put the effort in at training, and to enjoy each match as if it was their last."
KSC ran out convincing league winners with a few games to spare, but Murphy points to their only league defeat against their closest rivals as the real wakeup call which drove his side on.
"We lost on March 22nd against Troon Thistle and we had an off day. We had to remind the players that hard work and determination is required in every game. There was still a lot of football to be played and no trophies had been won. We can’t ever take it for granted," Murphy said.
Having lost to Troon Thistle that day, KSC went on to duly turn the tables on their rivals, defeating them in the CAYFA league cup final a month later. It was the springboard to league and further cup success, as they went on to beat Tass Saltire in the CYP Cup to clinch the treble.
KSC also reached the quarter final of the Scottish Cup, and Murphy can reflect on a season where the club was recognised at a national level, with several players going on to represent their country and enjoy success.
"Two of our boys were picked for the SYFA Scotland team to play Australia and seven were selected for the CYP Scotland team. Our captain Alan Murphy also led the national team to success in the recent tri nations tournament in Wales," Murphy said.
The club now begin their pre-season build up with great optimism on the back of last season, as the team moves up from under 17s to a new league at under 19s. Murphy looks forward to an exciting future as the hard work gets underway. He said: “Stepping up to Under 19s level will bring its own challenges and hopefully a respectable league finish awaits us next year. Our ambition is to keep developing the players and win more trophies along the way.”
“Hopefully the players will play at a level they enjoy and go on to enjoy the game at professional, junior or amateur level one day.”
Alan Robertson today confirmed his latest additions to the youth squad for the upcoming season. A total of seven players have signed with the Club progressing from Paul MacDonald's Academy. Six players signed full time youth contracts with one player (Sibbald) signing an amateur contract. Another player is expected to sign next week to finalise the group.
After featuring in the development squad on a number of occasions last season, promising midfielders Frizzell and Wilson have both once again committed their futures to the Club.
Joining them is Lewis Morrison who is a talented young striker with a good eye for a goal.
Defenders Clark and Queen also make the step up from under-17s after working hard last season and finally attacking player and their under 17 teammate, Andrew Sibbald, completes the group.
Lewis Morrison – Striker
Robbie Hogg - Forward
Iain Wilson - Midfield
Adam Frizzell- Midfield
Taylor Queen – Defender
Lewis Clark – Defender
Andrew Sibbald – Forward
The Development squad’s first pre-season friendly will take place on Saturday 11 July, when the team are away to St Cuthberts Wanderers, kick-off 2pm.
Former Dean Thistle and Bonnyton Thistle midfielder Sam McCloskey has signed his first professional contract with Stranraer.
The 20-year-old signed amateur forms for Stranraer last season, and spent the season on loan at Kilbirnie Ladeside, but will step up to the first-team squad next season.
McCloskey spent five years playing for Dean Thistle, before moving on to pro-youth football at St Mirren, and then Celtic. He returned to boys club football with Bellfield Royals before being part of Bonnyton's successful 2012-13 campaign.
"When I came into the club I knew of Sam but wanted to see him for myself in pre-season training before making any decision but he has earned his contract, showning a tremendous attitude and determination to secure a deal with the club and I have no doubt that he will show the willingness and effort to push on in the game," manager Brian Reid said in a statement.
McCloskey was named as man of the match in the 2013 SYFA Cup final, scoring two goals for Bonnyton in a 4-0 victory. That was for the under-19s, on just his 17th birthday.
His talent was spotted by Stranraer and McCloskey will be looking forward to adding to his two substitute appearances for the SPFL League One club next season.
Bonnyton Thistle has previously produced ex-Stranraer players Neil McGowan and John Robertson.
In a dream debut season for the 2002s at 11 a side level, Bonnyton Thistle swept to the Central Ayrshire YFA league title, netting an incredible 115 goals. They also won a cup at the Easter Rozelle tournament in Preston.
Manager Kenny Henderson says building a winning mentality was central to his side’s league title triumph this season.
"The team has performed well over the duration of the season. It takes great consistency to be able to win the league, and I wouldn’t want to single out any player. Everyone played their part in a tremendous season," Henderson told Youth Football Scotland.
Bonnyton finally saw off a league challenge from Tass Thistle in the last few games, and Henderson feels the February showdown between the clubs was decisive.
"We played them at home with 8 games to go. They were 8 points clear as we had some games in hand. For me it was a must win victory. We duly turned up and won the game 4-0, laying the foundation for a tremendous run in," he said.
Henderson believes the whole experience this has stood both himself and the club in good stead moving forward, adding: "I have learned to expect the unexpected managing a boys club this season, but the ambition is to keep developing the players and hopefully retain the league title, with a run in the Scottish cup next season."
Congratulations to Bonnyton Thistle under-13s, 2014-15 Central Ayrshire YFA league champions!
Video interview courtesy of Ryan Rowe.