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With phase three of lockdown restrictions well underway, grassroots football teams have been given the greenlight to get back into training in slightly larger groups.

 

Westerton United are one of many teams who did not hesitate in getting their players back out on the pitch to get the feel of a ball again.

 

WUFC is a grass roots football club, based in east Dunbartonshire. The 2003 squad - coached by Kenny McMahon, Paul Sweeney and Eddie McArthur – finished in the bottom half of the table in their first Division One campaign in the Paisley Johnstone District Youth Football League (PJDYFL) after gaining promotion alongside Port Glasgow the season before. 

 

Despite not having many titles to their name, the side has significant history.

 

They got to the quarter-finals of the Scottish Cup in 2016 and, in the same year, made the West Region Cup final - where they were defeated by a strong Drumsagard side. 

 

Last season also gave them a good cup run in the Scottish Cup, reaching the round of 16 before losing out to Kilmarnock-based side Bellfield.

 

Throughout last season United had a consistent line up, as head coach Kenny McMahon was satisfied with the squad he had, though early in the season, the team unfortunately suffered some serious player injuries.

 

However, with fourteen players consistently match fit, the squad battled hard throughout the season. Looking back at last season, Kenny told YFS: “I believe in the team I have, in my eyes we have a good quality side that can compete for titles no matter the numbers”.

 

For Kenny, his team is very important and always comes first. You can tell he has the backing of his side, which is all you can ask for from a coach.

 

Division One of the PJDYFL was voted the toughest league in Scotland, as every team was at a high standard. 

 

Westerton United went in with a winning mentality and a positive attitude to give every opponent a tough challenge. However, they suffered from a common football disease called ‘inconsistency’ throughout the previous season, mainly as a result of cancelled games.

 

This disrupted their rhythm as they played only 12 games - winning four, losing six and drawing four. However, their form near the end of the season was starting to pick up as they went four games unbeaten. 

 

Unfortunately as the season was made void there was no winner in the country’s toughest league and Westerton’s strong form didn’t get the chance to flourish as it they had wished.

 

Craig Sweeney, a key player in the side, told YFS how he felt about the previous season from a player’s perspective. 

 

“We were unlucky at times last season, losing games we shouldn’t have, but that’s behind us now and I’m sure we can learn from our mistakes.”

 

He was frustrated with how events unfolded last season but is optimistic for the next campaign as he feels the squad can improve from their experiences.

 

Pre-season began positively in early July, with the majority of the squad returning to training at the public pitches of Colqoun Park in Bearsden where they also play their home games.

 

The team began their first session back with ten minutes of consistent running specifically to build up stamina, followed afterwards by a light possession game, for players to get a feel for the ball again, and eventually rounding things off with a small-sided game to introduce the competitive side of the game back into the game. 

 

This regime will be ongoing until Westerton United and grassroots football teams are notified when they can return fully to competitive play with other teams.

 

United have proved to be a side that is hungry to bounce back as soon as possible and start competing for titles. It’s fantastic to see how teams at boys club level are coping considering the circumstances of the last few months, by responding positively, eager to get back into the swing of things.   

Thursday, 23 July 2020 14:29

Who Is Rangers' New Signing James Graham?

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Beating Liverpool and Manchester United to a teenager’s signature is no easy feat, but that’s exactly what Rangers did in June when they announced the signing of youngster James Graham.

 

The striker joined the Ibrox side for a reported fee of £45,000 when he signed the dotted line on a three-year-deal. But, even now, little is known about the 16 year-old and how he plays. YFS reporter Louis Cooper investigated to find out what kind of player Steven Gerrard has signed.

 

James moved from Stornoway to Ross County two years ago and has thrived for the Staggies ever since, having played at various youth levels. Because of this meteoric rise, word spread of his talent and he received attention from high-ranking clubs wanting his signature.

 

Where James would end up going had been up in the air for several months, with trials at Liverpool - where he scored two in a game against Notts County - in October and Manchester United in March - where he scored against Norwich City.

 

Ultimately, he chose to continue his development as a player at Ibrox. Sources close to the youngster believe this to be because of him wanting to stay in Scotland, and having been an avid Rangers fan growing up.

 

Many former teammates and coaches at Ross County spoke highly of the gifted young James. 

 

Players spoke about his rapid pace and constant goal scoring desire in the game. Others mentioned his technical ability and skills he demonstrated on the pitch, as well as his hard work in training.

 

“He’s a lively, bright, positive spark at training,” said Adam MacKinnon, a teammate of the young striker at the Staggies. “James will treat everyone the same and is happy to have a conversation with anyone and everyone.”

 

Fellow County youngster Matthew Wright added: “He’s always happy with what’s going on, even if he doesn’t like it, and will still always commit himself to the drill going on.

 

“James is a very down to earth person and calm around everyone.”

 

Josh Reid, another highly-tipped County youngster, agreed: “Off the pitch, he lives a good balanced life revolving around staying active and his education.”

 

What they were all able to agree on was that James thoroughly deserved the transfer and they are just as excited as everyone else to see how far he can go.

 

James also mentioned on his Instagram about how honoured he was and how he is very excited for the opportunity and chance he has been given to sign for Rangers.

 

Although the Staggies’ players and coaches are sad to see the striker leave, there is much anticipation to see how much of his potential he will be able to reach. Those I spoke to agreed that with his ability and skill, the sky is the limit for where his career can go.

 

(Image courtesy of Rangers Football Club.)

Gleniffer Thistle 2009s have been completing a ‘run-walk-cycle’ challenge to help raise funds for Accord Hospice.

 

The Paisley-based club, who play their league matches in the Paisley Johnstone & District Youth Football League (PJDYFL), are aiming to travel the amount of miles it would take from Paisley to the Nou Camp - where Barcelona play, in Spain. 

 

YFS’ Matthew Muir spoke to head coach, Mark McCall, to find out more about the challenge and how the idea came about.

 

“During lockdown we had set the boys various technical and fitness challenges as well as twice weekly Zoom training, match analysis tasks, and a few zoom Q&As with current or former professional players to try and keep us all involved as a squad,” Mark said.

 

“After a few weeks we decided to ask them for suggestions of what the boys themselves would like to do and they asked if they could do a fitness challenge to raise money for charity which we all thought was a great idea.”

 

Accord Hospice are a local charity who provided palliative care to over 1,200 patients and families each year from the community of Renfrewshire and East Renfrewshire. 

 

Mark explained more on why the club specifically decided on Accord Hospice as the charity to raise funds for.

 

“Accord Hospice is the nominated charity for Gleniffer Thistle FC and the club regularly make donations. We are aware that many of their fundraising opportunities which they rely on have been taken away from them this year so hopefully our donation helps them to continue the fantastic work that they do.”

 

The team have been given eight weeks (until July 20) to complete the equivalent of 1,330 miles - the distance it would take to get to the Nou Camp Stadium.

 

“Myself, the other coaches, and all the parents are all very proud of what the boys have achieved so far. We know it's been a really difficult time for everyone and many of them have struggled for motivation, but they have pushed each other on and stayed active whilst raising some money for a great cause.”

 

The club’s ‘JustGiving’ donations page has received a hugely positive response, with the club having already raised £1,795 by almost 100 supporters of what was initially a £500 target. 

 

“We are all extremely grateful to our friends, family members and everyone else who has donated as we are well aware how tough it is for many people at the moment and the amount we have raised has exceeded our target and expectations”. 

 

Nicola Sturgeon announced last week in Parliament that, as of July 13th, outdoor contact sports can resume for children and young people, in accordance to guidelines imposed by lockdown restrictions. 

 

Mark welcomed the news from the First Minister, and admitted he was looking forward to getting back to training.

 

“It's fantastic news that we are allowed to train again and for us all to see each other in person and get football back in our lives, which will no doubt give everyone a massive boost. 

 

“The last few months have been really tough for many people, but for those involved in kid's football this is a bit of light at the end of the tunnel.”

 

To find out more about Gleniffer Thistle 09’s team follow them on Twitter @09Thistle and to make a donation to their ‘JustGiving’ page, click here.

 

Rossvale FC plan to have a women’s team full of home-grown players, according to new Head of Football, Edward Gallagher.

 

 

Edward, a former operations manager at Celtic, feels that the new programme and academy set up will give young girls a clear pathway from youth football to the Rossvale women’s first team. 

 

“One of our main aims is to get as many home-grown Rossvale FC players into our women’s first team over the next five years through introducing fun and enjoyable sessions for our youngest players, whilst also offering a strong and competitive environment for our oldest players,” he told YFS. 

 

“Michael [Docherty] & Jim [Hill], along with all our other coaches, have created a solid foundation for us to grow and rebrand our girls’ academy as the ‘Train, Play, Achieve’ Academy.”

Rossvale FC is an all-inclusive football club established in 1976 based in the north of Glasgow. They currently provide footballing facilities and experienced coaching to over 500 boys and girls every week. 

 

Their first all-girls academy team was established in 2009 and has continued to develop over 100 girls from under 7s to under 17s. This has provided the girls with a clear footballing programme from childhood through to adolescence.

 

Their all-girls academy is currently run by Michael Docherty and James Hill which has over 20 girls academy coaches developing the players across the whole week. 

 

Despite the recent coronavirus pandemic, Rossvale have appointed a new girls and women’s committee, recruited a further ten coaches, developed a new media department and are committed to enter the SWF senior leagues in 2021 with their new Rossvale FC Women’s side. 

 

In March 2020, Rossvale appointed Edward, who has over 10 years experience working in women’s football, including UEFA Women’s Champions League experience, to the position of Head of Women and Girls’ Football.

 

The new women’s first team will be launched on the foundations of an academy, which provides football for all and ensures that girls from the north of Glasgow can get involved in the sport.

 

The current pandemic has stagnated the women’s training and their development will be halted until the Scottish Women’s Football (SWF) confirm that the situations safe for full contact training.

 

The club will utilise the remainder of the year to recruit their next phase of players to their academy. The next recruitment will be prior to Rossvale’s launch of their new ‘Learn to Train, Learn to Play, Learn to Achieve’ academy in January 2021.

 

The new academy launch will continue to deliver the finest training available to young girls who share a passion for the sport. Players will be given a clear pathway to develop their skills through each age group and level. 

 

The first stage, ‘Learn to train’, is aimed at under 7s and focuses on fun games and sessions which allow the players to socialise and become enthralled with the game. The girls will follow this pathway through to their ‘Learn to Achieve’ stage at under 17s, which begins the process of preparing players for the transition into the Rossvale FC Women’s first team. 

 

Each player will receive individual feedback throughout the year, while additionally having opportunities to play in competitive games programmes and will have the opportunity to be coached by and meet the Rossvale FC Women’s first team players. 

 

Teams run at under 7s, under 9s, under 11s, under 13s, under 15s, and under 17s, and Rossvale continue to welcome any young girls’ interested in football.

 

Parents/guardians can follow Rossvale Women on Twitter at @RossvaleFCWomen & @RossvaleGirlsFC and can email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information on how to join. 

Wednesday, 01 July 2020 15:36

Brothers Clean Up East End Pitch

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Two young brothers have cleaned up their club’s football pitch after piles of rubbish were left scattered over the astroturf.

 

Aiden and Aston Blair, who play for East End United, had gone for a kickabout with their dad, John, when they noticed the mess.

 

John Blair spoke to YFS regarding the boy’s gesture, saying: “I was thrilled, amazed and absolutely proud of them”.

 

Now that Scotland is officially in Phase Two of Covid-19 lockdown easing restrictions, families and friends are now permitted to go and spend time together if they follow Scottish Government guidelines which have been outlined.

 

Most of the population have been making the most of this opportunity, spending time with family after a long period apart however small minorities of people have been going against this and have caused disruption to local community facilities.

 

On June 13th, pictures of the rubbish-infested pitch of East End United were released on the club’s social media pages. 

 

A statement said: “The pitch has access for people so they can enjoy a kickabout for both young and old. It’s worrying the lack of respect and care for each other that we’re willing to let broken glass remain on the park where a child could get seriously hurt.”

 

The club confirmed that broken bottles and several empty cans of alcohol among many other things had been left abandoned on the pitch.

 

“All we’re asking for is to show respect” - the message from the club as the statement was concluded.

 

The morning after the statement was released, Aiden and Aston, who play for East End United 2007’s, went down to the local facility and picked up and disposed of all the rubbish that had been dumped without being asked.

 

“I took the boys down for a kick about down the pitch and they said to me to take some rubbish bags down and we can clean up the mess,” said Aiden and Aston’s father.

 

“The incident was mentioned on the parents WhatsApp group and originally all the parents were going to get together to dispose of the rubbish, but Aiden and Aston didn’t know about that,” John added.

 

The news of the brother’s goodwill gesture was posted on the club’s social media platforms, to which they were rightfully credited and praised in a post which said: “Two young boys cleaning up after young boys and girls but how embarrassing they’ve cleaned up after adults. Well done Aiden, Aston, and also your parents”.

 

The fantastic efforts of the boys have not been taken for granted by the club by any means, as it was announced that a representative from the club will buy both boys a gift, as a token of the club’s appreciation.

 

“Following on from today’s events and with a generous offer of recognition from Big Alex, both boys will be receiving new football boots of their choice,” a post on the club’s social media pages announced.

 

“We want to stress that the boys did not wish anything for their efforts today, but these sorts of acts shouldn’t go without a thank you,” the club added.

 

When asked about if Aiden or Aston had decided on what boots they would be choosing, John said: “The boys still haven’t picked what boots they would like, they’ve been going through hundreds and hundreds of pairs but their spoiled for choice and can’t decide!”

 

YFS would like to extent the gratitude shown to Aiden and Aston by saying a massive thank you and well done for a fantastic gesture, especially during the current challenging times everyone is facing.

The new Development League will "give younger players a pathway for progression” according to West of Scotland League (WoSFL) chairman Dave Mckenna.

 

Speaking exclusively to YFS, he said the new format is planned to give younger players opportunities within the current game.

 

Dave, who is also club secretary at East Kilbride, shared his insight on youth players: "There is a big gap from between when the kids come through at ages 16 and 17 and a lot of the teams start to struggle to attract and retain players because people at that age start to think, where is this going to go?”

 

 

“Unless the players get picked up which a number of them do and end up playing in the ‘Club Academy Scotland Pro Youth’ set up, which can lead to getting contracts to play in the senior leagues but there isn’t always huge numbers.”

 

 “What this development league is planning to do is give players at that age a pathway that will initially be within their own club’s development ranks, playing on a Friday night to then eventually making their way to the first team to play on a Saturday”.

 

Once approval is given to the WoSFL from the government for training to resume following the Covid-19 pandemic, the plan is for the new Development League to start.

 

As a younger player starts to grow older they will become even more eager to be scouted by a better team, however if this move unfortunately doesn’t happen for them as they reach ages 16 or 17 they may begin to doubt themselves and wonder if they have a future in football.

 

Currently the Scottish Lowland Football League (SLFL) runs a development league whose format allows teams from the Lowland League and the East of Scotland Football League (EoSFL) to play each other and give younger players much needed experience for progressing their game.

 

When asked about the Development League’s structure, Dave said: “The plan is to have an East and West part to the development league and at the minute, it’s shaping up to be two conferences in the East and there would be two or three conferences in the West depending on the amount of teams.

 

“All of that would be situated under the Lowland Development League and run under the direction of the SLFL Board”.

 

Dave also confirmed exclusively to YFS that, as it stands, around 35 West Region teams have applied for their newly established development league.

 

“The Development League idea was very well accepted by clubs because it’s going to be a step-up to either the Lowland League, the South of Scotland League, the EoSFL, the WoSFL,  or to more senior clubs because it’s a higher level of football, not only off the park but on the park as well,” Dave added.

 

One problem that faces the Development League however is travelling to and from different parts of the country on a Friday night for players and staff.

 

“For geographical reasons more than anything, these games will be played on a Friday night and travelling on a Friday night can be difficult for people leaving work or college etc, so what we will be doing is splitting into two geographical grouping of clubs from the East and clubs from the West,” Dave confirmed.

 

“But we are also planning to have an all in-cup so that teams from all divisions or conferences will get the chance to play each other, that’s our plan.”

Wednesday, 10 June 2020 12:44

New Facilities "Change Outlook" at EKYMC

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New facilities have “changed the outlook” for recently merged South Lanarkshire club EKYMC.

Graeme Robertson, a coach at the new side, feels the upgrade will help attract more players to the club and help them in their search for Scottish Cup silverware.

“We are certainly improving as a club and hopefully with the facilities we are putting in it will encourage more players to come," he said.

“Our new facilities have changed our outlook as a club for local players. We used to struggle for numbers but now we have players contacting us and looking for chances to play.”

In 2013, two of East Kilbride’s oldest and most-established football clubs announced an unanticipated plan to merge. The proposal was created to give local players a clear pathway from youth level to well beyond adolescence.  

East Kilbride Youth Club (EKYC) and East Kilbride Youth Men’s Club (EKYM) would merge but both clubs would retain their historic and precious identities on the pitch. They would work together off the field and be collectively known as East Kilbride Youth and Men’s Club (EKYMC). 

Both clubs were in dire need of a permanent home; an area where they could establish themselves within the local community and give their academy the facilities to develop and compete. 

Months went on with the club passing on various potential sites for their new academy. The original site at the Murray Sports Centre was rejected after the club found issues with the pitch and lack of space to build in the surrounding areas. 

Historically, EKYM have played all their league games at Kirktonholme but the area was not under their ownership. Therefore, both clubs agreed to make Kirktonholme their base of all operations for the overall club. They used the government’s asset transfer scheme which gave the club a 25-year lease on the area.

Since then, both clubs have funded a project to renovate Kirktonholme sports pitches into a joint-team training facility and arena. The newly updated area now features four changing rooms, referee’s room, kit room, sports bar, lounges and two outdoor grass pitches. 

The club were recently funded £44,000 to renew both football pitches at Kirktonholme - a positive and professional move for both amateur sides. 

Graeme has also been a key member in the merger and developments at Kirktonholme. 

“We found that we were struggling like a lot of other amateur sides,” he said. “It seemed that both us and YC had teams that got to under-19s and it didn’t go anywhere after that. It just disbanded.” 

 “The plan was to use both clubs to start a football academy so we could have a steady stream of players. We could then develop players from the age of four to nineteen and beyond.”

Very few amateur clubs experience this level of professionalism and there has been local speculation over the future of both clubs and what level they plan to operate in. 

“There has been talk about progressing to the West of Scotland League further down the line, but it has not been decided. 

“My personal thoughts is that I don’t want to go towards professional football,” Graeme added. “We have been an amateur club since 1921 and I think that should be there to stay.”

“There’s never even been an East Kilbride side who has won the Scottish Cup. That’s the holy grail for all East Kilbride sides to win it for town. We have got to the semi-finals and were in the quarters last year."

Many grassroots teams across Scotland have been doing different things throughout quarantine to keep themselves busy since training and leagues around the country have been cancelled. 

This has been a tough time for everyone. One of the age groups within Dumbarton’s local community club, Dumbarton United 2005's have been doing a range of things in lockdown to keep them occupied since the cancellation of training sessions and their league. 

They were sitting 2nd place in the table with four games to go and, if all four had been won (including a game against the league leaders), the title would have belonged to them in what was only their second year as a newly formed age group within the club structure. 

This was disappointing, although understandable given the extraordinary circumstances we find ourselves in, but to keep their thoughts off what could have happened, the players have:

      Participated in an online FIFA tournament which also involved the coaches

      Completed the Run 5 Donate 5 Challenge

      Completed the Toilet Paper Challenge

      Had FIFA cards created by their sponsors for players

      Completed several home workouts

      Donated to the local food bank

      Completed the KTA Keepy Up Challenge

      Continued their monthly Magic Number Competition 

The yearly club presentation was also hosted on Zoom, which was a great success and allowed the players and coaches a chance to catch up and close off what was a disappointing end to the season. 

Andrew Carroll, one of the club’s strikers, enjoyed the new type of presentation, and said: “Our coaches felt that we deserved to have an awards night due to our fantastic season. 

“It was unusual but worked surprisingly well. It wasn’t our normal presentation as we would have obviously seen each other in person if it was.”

Finally, the club has also received messages from a list of players and former players including Barry McKay, Murdo Macleod, Andy Considine, Kyle Hutton, Lawrence Shankland and Ross Doohan, who all wished the players and coaches good luck for next season, whenever that will start up again. 

Everything that they have done has really helped the whole team's morale and mental health, as well as physical health with some of the challenges. 

However, the club is still finding this time tough to get through, as so many around Scotland are, but they are hoping to come back stronger next season. They are actively looking for more challenges to keep them busy and are positive they will find some. 

When asked about the entire Coronavirus situation, lockdown and missing football, David Lavery, head coach of the side, said: “I’ve been coaching for almost ten years and during that time I thought I had seen most things, however, what we are going through currently is the most difficult time I could ever have imagined.

“We have 20 boys in our squad who all love and live for their football and it has been taken away from them with no real clear picture of when they might get it back.

“I know there are far more important things going on at the moment and football may seem pretty insignificant to some people, however, I genuinely believe that football has such an important part to play in these boys lives and mental health, particularly at the age they are, so hopefully, in the coming weeks or months, we can start to take steps to return to the pitch with the boys. 

“If someone had said at the beginning of February that I would miss 20 teenage boys the way I do just now I’d have laughed, but that is the reality of the situation.

 

The most important things to do right now are to stay safe, stay happy, stay fit and healthy and protect your loved ones. 

Wednesday, 03 June 2020 11:39

Beith Manager Hails New Development League

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“There is no better time for a youth player to come in and shine,” according to Beith Juniors gaffer Bryan Young, as he spoke to YFS about the new Under-20s Development League for the west of Scotland.

 

The new format will come into force next season, following the approval of plans for a new West of Scotland Football League (WoSFL) that will merge into the SPFL pyramid system. 

 

The WoSFL will join the sixth-tier, alongside the existing East of Scotland Football League and South of Scotland Football League. The establishing of the league is the dawn of a new era for football in the west of Scotland and opens the door to more opportunities for youth players.

 

It was announced on the April 14 that 67 of the 68 clubs who applied to be part of the WoSFL had been reviewed and accepted. 

 

63 of these clubs had been the members of the West Region Junior Football Association (WRJFA) and after several months of voting and discussions between the clubs they felt that joining the SPFL at the sixth-tier was the best way forward for all clubs at junior level.

 

“For Beith as a club, there was a lot of thought put in to it to be honest with you,” Bryan said, speaking on the decision from the Juniors side to join the SPFL set-up.

 

“For me personally coming into the role such a short time ago and being my first job, it was quite exciting and quite frustrating at the same time because there is so many unknowns at the moment, but if I was to answer it I think it’s a real positive for Scottish football as a whole.”

 

Previously, junior football has been the starting point for many younger players’ careers and has given them the experience that is needed of playing in a first team consistently. It was also a platform for younger players to be scouted and be picked-up by professional clubs. 

 

Bryan agreed, adding: “I think this new u20s league is very exciting, if it’s done the way it should be done. With the whole Covid-19 situation, money is going to be tight for these clubs, there is no better time for a youth player to come and shine.”

 

The creation of the Development League has seen youth teams begin to affiliate with new WoSFL members and create development teams to allow younger players a new pathway to the first team. 

 

Auchinleck Talbot, a team who have dominated junior football for many years, winning countless trophies, have recently affiliated with Crosshouse 2004s to create an U17s side. 

 

A statement on the ‘ATFC Youth Academy’ Facebook page said: “We are delighted to announce that we will have a new U17s team in the academy. Crosshouse 2004s have agreed to move to play under our banner as Auchinleck Talbot u17’s. This is a great addition to the academy as we look to strengthen the pathway towards the new West Development League & hopefully to the first team”.

 

Bryan, only entering his second season as The Cabes’ manager, also believes in giving youth a chance: “The best advice I could give any young player is, just because someone tells you you’re not good enough that doesn’t mean you aren’t.”

 

The gaffer played almost his full career in junior football, spending 12 seasons at Auchinleck Talbot. He won five Scottish Junior Cups in that time, making him one of the most decorated players in Junior football. 

 

Having previously coached Johnstone Burgh under-21s and Johnstone Burgh 09s, he still coaches Pollok 09’s as well as managing Beith.

 

“People told me I was too small, but you need to overcome it and adapt your game. At Auchinleck I done my first six months grinding it out, being on the bench to try and prove myself, it was really difficult. 

 

“Self-belief is one of my main messages. It doesn’t matter what people say, if you don’t believe in yourself no one else will.”

 

Thursday, 19 March 2020 08:35

Feature: Vale of Leven open up Academy

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In late February, YFS received an email from Alex Lacy - former Vale of Leven player and current FC Argyle coach. He was setting up a new Academy for his former club, and wanted to get the news out there. When we sent our reporter Alistair Fenton along, we didn't just get a press release - instead, we got a passionate story about the boys Alex coaches, and how bright he thinks their future can be. 

During a chat initiated by YFS, I asked Alex Lacy if the SFA’s recent directive on gradual increase of heading practice from age 6-16 in training will have any effect on the development plans of his 2006 team (“not a bad thing, we don’t header it much anyway at those ages”). It offered him the opportunity to passionately open the doors behind the development of this squad.

Like many so-called ‘deprived’ areas in Scotland, this area of Dunbartonshire is recognising the value of such initiatives to help promote inclusivity, community regeneration and individual development, and Alex and his team of four coaches and others have enthusiastically grabbed this opportunity to help achieve these common goals through football.

The recipe for success? Although Vale of Leven’s most ‘capped’ player - 517 appearances over 20 years - when Alex’s initial kick-about with his 8-year-old grandson grew arm and legs the team he formed with Gary Mullen was under the auspices of FC Argyle.

Although one might expect a local rivalry between the neighbouring Alexandria teams, the result was quite on the contrary. The Argyle team’s swap over to Vale seemed the natural fit at that age group to achieve one of many broader goals.

This has allowed to help develop a structured Pathway/Youth Academy system through the ages, with the goal on this occasion being the community-minded wider inclusion to all.

The various boys age groups are covered, but the aim is to extend this further - to include girls, disability, walking football options for all ages and other such related inclusive activities.

Instead of slobbing on the couch, taking on Ronaldo or Messi on their games consoles, the idea is to also channel kids’ natural energies towards all the other social, community and personal benefits initially through football.

Their next venture is a classic example of the broad-reaching ambitious plans for Vale football and community development. A huge amount of effort has gone in to arranging a tour to Torrevieja near Alicante in Spain on 20-24 April, with the full squad, now about 42 in number includes 20 players.

Areas of development covered in such initiatives often go largely unnoticed, but consider these - players, personal fitness, engaging friends and acquaintances in ‘getting out there’ - all of which lead to excellent team-building and team-working skills.

It helps coaches too, to build upon improving their technical skills, but also furthering their team-leading and general man-management skills. Parents, too – through no fault of their own -  who are often at a loss as to how to re-integrate into group involvement, can build confidence in such environments, which is key to their own and others personal development.

So, from little acorns grows a huge oak of a community, integrating with each other, carrying out to a wider audience with a football hook, all from kicking a ball about with an eight-year-old five years ago. Vale of Leven are heading to success for sure.

 

For more information on the new Vale of Leven Academy and how you can get involved, contact Alex Lacy on 07807866743.

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