Most good seasons see teams lift one or two trophies, but for St Ninian’s High – that just wasn’t good enough. The school has taken their leagues by storm producing multiple titles, doubles and trebles across their teams in a record breaking season.
Two unbeaten league winning sides, a Paisley District trophy and a treble are amongst the accolades picked up by the East Renfrewshire high school; a standard that has raised eyebrows around the country.
John Docherty, Head teacher of the school said; “I think that a lot of our success comes from a great sense of community around this school, I know that lifelong friendships are forged on the football pitch and I think we really have that to our advantage.”
St Ninian’s have an absolute gold mine of talent in their starting 11s across age groups – players like Declan Wilson have stepped up their play even further this season and Saints’ Coach Joe Fuchs is enjoying the show. “Our tactic is to let the players enjoy themselves; if they enjoy their football then they’ll play better because of it. Every boy and girl who puts on a jersey for us wants to give 110% to represent this school. I think that that is what put us above many other teams this season.”
Despite the wealth of ability in the Saints classrooms the school previously had no playable home pitch due to the surface on the school’s old pitch. This year has seen the former red ash park be completely resurfaced to become a modern artificial pitch. The new development has just been completed and the teams are now starting to have regular training sessions and play at home thanks to East Renfrewshire council and the Scottish FA providing funding.
Joe said; “The new pitch is fantastic, you just need to stand on it to feel the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. I’ve had a few of the girls and boys out on it during physical education today and I cannot wait to get started training and playing on it. It’s exactly what we needed”
Both John and Joe were positively thrilled with the new park, the team had previously been playing all their games at opponents’ home grounds and felt that this was a definite challenge for the school in the current economy but John addressed this saying; “It is hard for a school today to be able to afford travelling to some of our opponents, but sport is an absolutely vital part of education – it allows confidence building, camaraderie and improves health. St Ninian’s High will always put our money where our mouth is and spend the money we need to ensure that our school is providing sporting competition for our pupils.”
With the new home park the pupils will be turning out in droves next season to support the Saints stars, player such as under 14s captain Martin Cassells said [that]: “The new ground means that we’ll have a huge support from the school, everyone will turn out to watch the games. While that might seem like more pressure to some, the confidence we’ve gained from this season will let us ignore that and play our best no matter the occasion.”
Joe was also keen to pack the stands, saying “We want to turn our school into a fortress where nobody wants to come and play, after all the time we’ve spent travelling we have the ability to do that.”
St Ninian’s definitely has that potential; the pitch is wide and long – situated right next to the school which is of itself housed within a huge complex. As an outsider it was awe inspiring to see, never mind play on; visitors would surely feel nervous stepping out on to it. When filled with spectators out to see the stars of the school, who could think of it as anything but a fortress?
One such star is Katie Rice: the St Ninian’s midfielder was top scorer in the Girls’ School under 15s league, she plays for both Glasgow City – a League Cup winning side – and represents Scotland.
A wearer of many strips the pressure hardly seems to faze her; “I just approach every game the same, I give my best and hope the result comes. It is my dream come true representing Scotland, but that doesn’t make it more important than a local rivalry with Glasgow City or a School League game. I’ve made a lot of friendships through football and I don’t feel my heart belongs to any one team over another – I’m just excited to show my skills and represent my team, club and country.”
It seems that Ninian’s is the place to be in school football, seeing the Paisley District Trophy and Scottish Schools Football Association Shield surrounded by silverware was a powerful image of just how much talent was at this school.
In the words of John Docherty, “While it’s nice to have bragging rights you have to be careful what you say, but I believe right now Ninian’s High has some of the best football teams in Scotland.”