Features & Blogs (115)
With so many great young talented full-backs coming through the ranks in the Scottish game, there is healthy competition for who can move from their respective academies to play in some of the top leagues in Europe.
Players such as Andy Robertson, Kieran Tierney and more recently Aaron Hickey have all worked hard to earn their opportunities and are living the dream.
Along with previous full back Hot Prospects mentioned by other reporters (Josh Doig, Leon McCann, Josh Reid) having great ambition to succeed in football, 16-year-old Dunfermline full-back Miller Fenton is no different.
Miller, who attended Queen Anne High School in Dunfermline, signed his first professional contract for the Pars in November 2019 and has been involved with Dunfermline’s reserve team ever since.
Miller started his playing career at Elgin Star 2003s, where he spent many years playing 7-a-side and then proceeding to 11-a-side. With Miller being a real stand-out in this Elgin side, he then was scouted by Fife Elite who he impressed the previous season.
Miller spent around 3 years playing for Fife Elite in a pro-youth program against the country’s best youth talent before getting a real chance to prove himself in the SPFL Reserve League at the age of 15 for Dunfermline.
In a recent interview with Miller himself, he stated that since signing for the Pars, coaches Stevie Crawford, Greg Shields and Jason Dair have been instrumental in his recent development as a player.
“They have all been great…they are very easy to approach if you have any problems or questions. They demand the best out of me and praise me when it’s due…they always expect a high standard from everyone…always giving me tips on how to defend…since coming in full-time I’ve become a much better player.”
A game that stands out in Miller’s young career so far was a reserve game against Celtic back in October 2019. Having just turned 16 a few weeks prior to the match, Miller was given a golden chance to prove himself.
Going into the game, Miller already knew he was going to have a real task on his hands against a strong Celtic side - but to make things more difficult for him he had to mark one of Scotland’s best young talents; Karamoko Dembele.
After a 1-0 defeat at East End Park, Miller picked up Man of the Match in the eyes of coach, Greg Shields, who was very impressed by Miller’s performance.
Shields noted after the game: “To play someone who just turned 16 last Wednesday, it excites me. He did really well playing against Dembele. I thought he snuffed him out…he can hold his head high cause he was outstanding.”
Miller commented on playing against Dembele: “I had played against him before so I had an idea of what he was going to do…I was ready to do anything to try stop him…I just treated it like I was playing against any other winger.
Following on from this great individual performance, Miller continued to impress in the Reserve league before he gained himself a place on the Dunfermline first team’s bench on multiple occasions.
After the 19/20 season was cut short due to COVID-19, Miller will be looking to impress manager Stevie Crawford during pre-season in the lead up to the start of the Betfred Cup and the 20/21 league campaign.
“My goal this season is to play, it’s the only way I’ll get better," he said.
"I’m ready to play and also ready to fight for the left back position…if I work hard enough and impress I’ll get game time.
Miller's aspirations for the future indicate what he wants to achieve in the game he loves: “I think everyone’s dream is to get a national call up at whatever age…I just take it as it comes and will wait and see how the upcoming season goes.”
With the same attitude and determination that Miller has had since the moment he started playing football, this writer has no doubt that the left-back will eventually break into the Pars first team and be a stand out within it.
(All images credited to dafc.co.uk)
In a hectic week for Scottish football, both on and off the field, here are some of the exciting new stories you may have missed from YFS.
1. Stateside Update
Former Vale Community player Caden Beaton lined up for Grand View against Iowa State yesterday at the Luhrs Athletic Complex.
The Scot is one of many footballers who travelled to the United States this summer to play college soccer - including YFS' own Joe McInnes, who we will be hearing from later this week.
Caden was making his debut for the JV side - also known as 'junior varsity' - which is usually comprised of players in their first two years of university.
Currently, there are still free assessments day scheduled to return to Edinburgh in October. Find out more by clicking here.
2. Josh Adam on the Move
Another youngster has left Celtic Park for greener pastures - if you'll pardon the pun.
Following the departure of Barry Hepburn to Bayern Munich, fellow Celtic youth Josh Adam has joined Manchester City.
The midfielder caught the eye of clubs across England and Europe with a Player of the Tournament performance at the Marc Overmars tournament in the Netherlands.
Confirming the news on his Instragram page, @joshadam10, the Scotland age grade star wrote: "Happy to finally announce that I have signed with @ManCity. Can't wait for the new season."
3. Debut for Carlo Pignatiello
Livingston's 20-year-old finally made his debut for the West Lothian club, coming on for the final few minutes against league champions Celtic.
The right-back, who can also play in centre-midfield, was on loan at Stranraer last season and has also spent time at BSC Glasgow. He originally came through the youth systems at Rangers and St Mirren before signing for Livi in 2018.
Declan Glass of Dundee United also made a long-awaited Premiership debut, whilst 17-year-old pair Adam MacKinnon and Matthew Wright were once again on the bench for Ross County.
Well done boys - hopefully the first of many!
4. Cambuslang Colts Hit the Road
It's been a busy week in Cambuslang! After one of the most impressive kit launches in Scotland - including the pro teams! - they hit the road for their sponsored walk.
Six age-grade sides from the club walked to the three biggest stadiums in Glasgow - Celtic Park, Ibrox, and Hampden Park.
The team are building up funds to go to Blackpool next season. You can donate by clicking here.
5. YFS' new camera and handbooks
The YFS VEO camera was out and about again this weekend in it's second outing. The new equipment will allow for as many friendlies as possible to be covered, which can offer players, coaches and parents the opportunity to rewatch all the best moments from their team's games.
If you've got a friendly coming up, we'd love to be there. Let us know by filling in the following form here!
YFS is also excited to bring you a brand-new product as the new season approaches. The new handbooks are aimed at teams that are looking for an impressive visual online information point alongside their own social media, without the issues of keeping a website up to date.
There will be both digital and print editions which will showcase the squad, kit and home pitch. The club’s own videos will be embedded within the pages. Each handbook is bespoke to your team and is a prime position for club sponsors.
It was a busy week for grassroots football as matches returned for the first time in nearly six months, but here are five things you may have missed amidst the buzz:
1. Scotland Win First Post-Lockdown Youth International
Scotland U21s defeated Lithuania U21s 1-0 in the first post-lockdown Scottish Youth International match. Motherwell midfielder Allan Campbell provided the only goal of the game as his late winner saw Scotland climb to third place in their U21s Euros Qualifying group.
Scot Gemmill’s side sit four points behind leaders Czech Republic, with a game in hand, as the young team look to end their 25-year absence from a Euro Under 21s Finals.
2. Bo’ness United Community FC hold Charity Crossbar Challenge
Bo’ness United Community FC took part in a sponsored Tartan-themed Crossbar Challenge as part of the Kilwalk’s virtual weekend.
Over the course of the week, 250 kids participated during their regular training times, to adhere to government guidelines, and have already raised £2796.08. You can donate here.
The YFS cameras were also there to capture the action on the first day of the event. You can view the full gallery here.
3. Kyle Munro Off the Mark for Accies
Kyle Munro continued his impressive progression amongst the Hamilton Accies ranks as the winger bagged his first goal for the club at the weekend.
The 18-year-old made his debut for the Lanarkshire club before the international break, coming on as a substitute against Rangers.
Munro then made his first professional start against Livingston at the weekend before heading home the winner for his side 85 minutes later.
4. Scots in the States Update
Callum Bissett has enjoyed an incredible introduction to student athlete life in the States.
The youngster arrived alongside fellow Scots to his own branded changing locker and a mountain of Adidas kit. He was then initiated and began his official college classes before impressing with a 15.6 score in the bleep test.
Bissett continued his busy month with media duties and a squad photoshop in preparation for his first pre-season friendly match.
Everyone at YFS would like to wish Callum the best of luck for the season and look forward to bringing coverage of Scots in the States when the season begins!
Our Future Pro USA assessment days return in October. Book your free space here.
5. YFS Match Coverage Returns
Grassroots matches returned this weekend, meaning YFS coverage of matches could also return. However, due to restrictions and guidelines in place as a result of COVID-19, your YFS cameraman may look a little different now.
Our Veo cameras were deployed across the nation to provide coverage for grassroots games whilst respecting the SFA ‘Return to Football’ guidelines.
Would you like your match to be filmed? Get in touch now @ http://yfs.news.returntofootballcoverage
One name that cropped up in the midst of the 19/20 SPFL season was that of Stephen Welsh, highly-rated Celtic FC academy graduate and modern day ball-playing centre back. John Woods took a look deeper into what makes Stephen such an exciting prospect for the future.
Welsh, 20, is from Coatbridge and has spent many years in the Celtic Academy, signing his first professional contract in 2016 - a deal that saw him commit to Celtic until 2019.
In the 18/19 season, Welsh won the Glasgow Cup as part of the Celtic reserve team who defeated Rangers 3-2 in the dramatic final at their home stadium, Celtic Park.
Soon after, he moved to Morton on loan - a good opportunity for vital minutes of experience.
Under the management of ex-Chelsea player David Hopkin, Welsh made 18 appearances before the loan being cut short to bring him back to Celtic.
In his months at Morton, Welsh featured at both right-back and centre-back in a mixture of formations that included back threes and fours. However, Celtic predominantly see him as a centre-half despite Welsh admitting: “I’m happy to play anywhere because it will make me a more versatile player for the future and it can be something I have up my sleeve when I go back to Celtic”.
Welsh’s willingness to develop his game and learn as much about his role on the pitch, coupled with his excellent reading of the match, is what makes Celtic coaches believe in his potential.
His keenness to get on the ball, and his comfort with it at his feet, makes him the ideal player for any modern day team. Importantly, alongside these attributes, Welsh also loves a tackle and has excellent defensive awareness.
The blond-haired defender has also had the opportunity to showcase his talents on the international stage, as he has represented Scotland at both under-17 and under-19 level and undoubtedly will make the step up to the under-21s very soon.
With 21 Scotland age-grade appearances, it is clear that Welsh is a talent, but his real breakthrough into the football world was his competitive debut that fell against Hamilton on 2nd February, 2020.
Welsh was recalled from his loan spell to Cappielow due to an injury to Celtic defender Jozo Simunovic, and promptly started the fixture against Hamilton - which finished 4-1 to the Celts.
He played a total of 76 minutes before being replaced by Tom Rogic. Despite not finishing the game, Welsh won over the Celtic support with one fan (@mel9samaras on twitter) saying:
“Thought Stephen Welsh was excellent today. Looked the most composed of all the defenders."
Now contracted with the Hoops until at least 2023, Welsh has impressed in Celtic’s pre-season tour of France and will no doubt be hoping his name crops up on the team sheet many more times throughout the coming season.
Keep your eyes peeled as Welsh is assuredly one for the future and a name we will be seeing far more often in the coming few seasons.
Last weekend, Scottish youth football was given the green light to play friendly matches for the first time since March - when all football was put on hold due to COVID-19.
On Saturday 12th September, six months after the enforced cancellation, an eager Dumbarton United 2005s faced off against Clydebank FC at the Mountblow pitches in Clydebank, in a game that ended 1-1.
The goals came by way of a well-struck free-kick from Clydebank’s number 9, Ben Vine
and a delightful chipped finish from Dumbarton United’s number 6, Murdo Burch, both in the second-half.
However, the result was not important, as it was great to see the players making a welcome return to action.
The game was very different from a reporting/spectating view. Not being able to go near the action and standing outside of the fenced pitch, not being able to interact and properly interview players, coaches and the referee.
This ‘new normal’ will be very strange to get used to for everyone in football, but the most important thing is that all players, coaches and spectators are safe and that youth football has returned, despite only being for pre-season at the moment - most leagues across the country have varying starting dates ranging from September until the end of October.
We spoke to players, coaches and the referee after the game via social media and email to ask their thoughts on the return to football, the changes and challenges which they face in the new normal and how it felt to be back at football games.
Dumbarton United’s captain, Vincent Neill told YFS: ”I was really excited to play because we’d been working hard at training for a while without any notice of when games would return.
“Personally, I thought it was great to get back even though it wasn’t competitive.
“There were not any massive changes in my usual routine however it was odd not to shake hands with the referee at the beginning of the match, or to shake hands with the opposition at the end of the match.
“Besides the standard social distancing measures, it was pretty similar to playing a normal match on a Saturday which was good.”
Dumbarton United’s head coach, David Lavery echoed his captain’s sentiments: “It felt great being back in action today… I woke up buzzing for the game.
“You could see in how the boys started the game today how much they were up for it. Six months is a long time to not have played a game, so it was very pleasing to see the boys back on the pitch again.
“Being in lockdown and then not being able to play has been so hard for them both physically and with their mental health.
“The attitude since we have come back has been amazing and that’s because the boys realised how much they missed their football.
“Adapting to the new measures has been weird but we are doing everything right not just as a team but as a club and it’s important that the boys feel safe in the environment we have at training and at games.
“I know that parents and maybe some of the boys were anxious about coming back but it’s the new normal now.
“If we want football to continue then it’s important we are all doing our bit to ensure we are following the rules that have been put in place.”
Clydebank’s coach, Kenny Vine told us his view on the game and changes: “It was great to
finally have a game after six months. Coaches and players alike were excited to get on the field today.
“The changes didn’t make too much of a difference to the match in general. It's the build-up and after the match which is difficult with no changing rooms and shaking hands. Turn up, play and go home.
“It’s not ideal but we’ll take it if it means we can play.”
In conclusion, the changes were of course noticeable but didn’t totally change the flow of the game. When speaking to those involved and thinking about my experience at the game, it seemed that the experience was a positive one that will hopefully be improved as restrictions are lifted more across the country.
This is the first step on a long journey to the eventual destination that is football at all levels across the country having full-capacity crowds.
Scotland have a newly-formed trait for having top quality left backs: Andy Robertson, Kieran Tierney and previous hot prospects Josh Reid and Matthew Shiels. Today is no different, as we look at one of Airdrieonians’ key men - Leon McCann.
Born on the 16th of March 2000, Leon started off in the pro-youth system with Hamilton Academical aged 13 while attending Braidhurst High School. Being part of such a prolific academy let him fly through the ranks and he quickly became a key part of Accies youth set-up.
When Leon signed for the Diamonds the first time round – on loan at the start of the 19/20 season - his new manager Ian Murray made comment on how the Hamilton youth system doesn’t just provide Hamilton with an advantage.
“Hamilton’s model is to bring young players in to the team and sell them on,” he said, “and is these boys [Leon McCann and other signing Charlie Reilly] can help us out while gaining a bit of first team experience, it can only be a benefit to us.”
The pinnacle of McCann’s spell with Hamilton was undoubtedly captaining the under-19’s in the 18/19 edition of the UEFA Youth League. The team would have a total of four games playing abroad in Switzerland and Denmark.
The team went up against Champions League regulars FC Basel from Switzerland, narrowly winning 3-2 in a penalty shootout, before FC Midtjylland proved to be too strong for them as the Accies lost 3-1 on aggregate.
McCann has also featured for Scotland at youth level. He made his debut for the under-19’s against Poland in a 4-3 loss., back in September 2018. The game was just a friendly but the side included Rangers’ Glenn Middleton, Celtic’s Ewan Henderson, and Hearts’ Andy Irving.
Upon initially signing for Airdrie, Leon said: “Playing every week was a big attraction for me so hopefully I can keep doing that.”
The defender was a huge asset on his loan spell with the Diamonds, to the point where he signed an 18-month contract three days after his initial loan deal ended in January of this year.
Leon had so much success in the past season, that in the end of season awards at Airdrie he won Players Young Player of the Season and Young Player of the Season. No wonder when Airdrie boss Ian Murray rates him very highly!
“Leon possesses a great amount of pace and has a great delivery,” his gaffer continued.
Leon isn’t just a player too, but also a coach. The youngster has joined up with newly formed 1-2-1 coaching business JRB Soccer Skills Academy to help give back to the game.
Although with all of his past success, Leon is only 20 and by the end of this season wants to get promoted with Airdrie to the Championship - agoal for players, staff and supporters alike.
With the season aiming to start in October, Leon is going to be a busy man with his coaching and playing, but it will definitely be a season to enjoy for Leon and the rest of Airdrie too.
Leon is certainly one too keep an eye on and soon could be making a move to the big time.
Clyde have snapped up young Rangers prospect Matthew Shiels on loan. To find out more about the latest Hot Prospect, YFS’ Matthew Muir reports.
Born on 13 September 2000 in Glasgow, Shiels built his football career by joining the Glasgow Rangers and by gradually moving up the ranks, from the under-17/under-19s to the ‘B’ team, he has established himself as an Academy talent and a young asset to the club.
As well as being part of the Academy squad, the Light Blue left-back has benefitted from loans to Edinburgh City and Dumbarton F.C.
Most recently, he also had a short spell at Californian club, Orange County S.C in a partnership with Rangers, albeit cut short by COVID-19.
With 10 international caps at Scotland U-19 level, he has now joined the League One side, who are hoping to push further up the league after establishing themselves in the third tier last season.
On a loan deal until the end of the season, with Rangers retaining a recall option in January, Shiels will be hoping he can obtain first-team experience as part of Danny Lennon’s squad, with the club preparing to kick off their competitive campaign at home to Dumbarton in the Betfred Cup in October.
On finalising the loan of the 19-year-old, Bully Wee boss Danny Lennon said,
“Matthew is a young man with bags of potential to do well in football and he can continue his excellent progress with hard work and focused application at Clyde this season.
"We look forward to playing our part in his development as a quality left back.
"He has 10 caps at under-19 International level and, crucially, he has already had experience of first team football on loan at Edinburgh City two seasons ago and at Dumbarton last season.
"We want to thank Rangers for their cooperation and trust in loaning Matthew to Clyde."
With the Broadwood sides’ competitive season just under two months away, Shiels will be hoping he can continue his development with Clyde coaching duo Danny Lennon and Allan Moore in an effort to continue his highly positive career so far and push into becoming an established first-team footballer.
In a hectic week for Scottish football, both on and off the field, here are some of the exciting new stories you may have missed from YFS.
1. New Pathways -
Scottish Lowland league side Caledonian Braves have announced a new pathway for players with two new squads.
An under-16 side will participate in the Lanarkshire FDA league, and an under-19 squad will play in the Central Scotland FA league.
Both clubs will share resources with the Lowland League first team. It is hoped the new additions to the Braves family will give young players from youth football a pathway to senior football.
2 - Future Pro USA News -
There will be another Pro USA event for the 2020-21 season in October, taking place at the Spartans Academy in Edinburgh.
The programme allows young aspiring Scottish footballers to travel to the US and combine their academic studies with playing high level "soccer" in the American college system.
The programme continued to run this summer, despite the ongoing global pandemic, and saw scores of Scots jet off stateside - including Scotland age-grade star Aisha Maughan.
The event is free but spaces are limited - you can reserve your place by clicking here.
3 - Germany Holiday!
Heads were turned last summer when Celtic academy youngster Liam Morrison moved to Bavaria to join German giants Bayern Munich - and now, the centre-back will have a familiar face in training.
Midfielder Barry Hepburn has followed Morrison's route, leaving Lennoxtown for south-east Germany, joining the Champions League winners' youth team.
It is hoped he will have a similar impact to Morrison, who has established his place in Martin Demichelis' under-19 side.
And Hepburn could still be joined by another Scot - Hearts' left-back Aaron Hickey, who has been linked with Hansi Flick's side. The youngster is also being chased by Italian side Bologna, who have made an official approach.
4 - Return to Football -
We were all hit hard with the cancellation of football, both youth and professional due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, teams from the Aberdeen area have had to endure difficult circumstances compared to other youth clubs. After an outbreak of Covid-19 resurged in Aberdeen, all youth football in the area had to be cancelled.
So, it was great to see a positive return for Dyce Boys Club 2010, who took part in a seven aside bounce game. A lot of entertaining football and show and great to see the youth teams in Aberdeen back playing.
5 - Munro makes Pro bow -
Congratulations to 18-year-old Kyle Munro who made his debut for Hamilton on Saturday against Rangers.
Replacing fellow 18-year-old Reece Mimnaugh, it was great to see Hamilton’s extensive youth academy having an impact on their first team squad.
Despite the 2-0 defeat it was clear that Hamilton is investing heavily in their youth setup with fellow Academy graduates Shaun Want, Scott McMann and Andrew Winter all starting, and Jamie Hamilton coming off the bench.
Almost every Scottish football fan now knows the name Lawrence Shankland after his success at Ayr and Dundee United earned him a Scotland shirt.
The 25-year-old striker has once again been called up to Steve Clarke's Scotland squad, having previously won two caps and scored one goal.
Add to that impressive resumé a Scottish Championship title, a Scottish League One title, a PFA Scotland’s Players’ Player of the Year for League One in the 2017/18 season award, and a SPFL Top Goalscorer in 2019/20 award - it's not a bad trophy room in the Shankland household.
He is now in the Scottish Premiership for the second time in his career, this time with United where he wants to prove he can compete at the highest level.
At the weekend, whilst recovering from injury, Shankland discussed the side to his career that many people aren’t aware of - his youth career - on the 'Bishy PE podcast'. This podcast episode was hosted by two teachers in the PE department and an S6 student of Bishopbriggs Academy.
Lawrence was born in August 1995, in Glasgow, and mentioned his first footballing experience: “I started at Baillieston Juniors. I only played there for a few months and then the Hearts scout was at one of my games so I ended up going and training with them for about six months to a year.
"Then I ended up going through the Academy when I was turning eight until I was 12/13."
He spoke about his time training with Rangers, as he was playing games at the weekend with Queen's Park which he mentioned was “like a loan deal”.
After a few months of being with both teams, he was released by Rangers and stuck with the Spiders until he made the first team in 2012. During this period he also represented his country, appearing for the Scottish Schools FA's squad in the Centenary Shield.
Speaking about school he said: “I enjoyed times of it… You don’t realise until you were older how good it was, you probably wish you could go back and do things a bit different but it was an enjoyable time for me."
He mentioned that he stayed on until fifth year and then left around the same time he made his Queens Park first-team debut. He thanked a PE teacher at his high school for giving him football advice and says he still keeps in touch with him, as well as other teachers, up to this day.
At the end of his first season playing part-time with Queen's Park and working part-time at a local factory, he decided he “wanted to play football full-time at the end of that season as there was a bit of interest”.
After leaving Queen's Park he went on to sign for Aberdeen in 2013, where he was sent out on loan to several Scottish clubs, he only spent 18 months in Aberdeen and the rest of the time he was out on loan, getting experience and game time.
When his time with Aberdeen came to an end, Shankland admitted that he “found himself out of the game for a while”. The time between Aberdeen and Ayr United was around three months but he admitted later on that this was one of the toughest points in his career.
He felt that he repaid Ayr United after they “took a chance” on him by leading them to win League 1, getting promoted to the Championship and then finishing in a playoff spot in the following year. Over his two-year spell with Ayr, Shankland scored 50 goals in 61 appearances.
Towards the end of the interview, he was questioned about the keys to success in a team. “Having quality in your squad and believing in what you’re trying to do," he said, "you just have to remember what the focus is and what you’re aiming for."
Finally, he advised young footballers trying to make it, adding: “Hard work and attitude is half of the battle.
"If you have quality and your talent is there then that will eventually come through and you’ll be able to show what levels you can get to but the biggest thing for me was just knuckling down and working hard.
"You just need to commit to what you want to do if you want to be successful and do everything you can to make yourself better. If people are willing to give you advice they’re always giving you that to make you better.”
You can view the entire podcast episode on YouTube using the link below: https://youtu.be/rRbGe09Q-K8
In a hectic week for Scottish football, both on and off the field, here are some of the exciting new stories you may have missed from YFS.
1) Breakthrough – Former Newcraighall Leith Vics and Tynecastle FC striker John Robertson has broken into the St Johnstone first team squad. A favourite of recently departed manager Tommy Wright, Robertson will be one for the future for the Saints.
He spent last season on loan at League Two champions Cove Rangers, scoring on one occasion. After impressing on loan, the 18-year-old will be challenging for a place in the Premiership outfit this season. Perhaps one to keep an eye out for in our Hot Prospect series...
2) States Scholarships - Good luck to both James Baxter and Joe McInnes who will be representing Scotland across the pond. The duo are travelled to St Louis Missouri to join the new teammates in the NJCAA program East Central College on Thursday.
The program allows young aspiring Scottish players to travel to the US to combine their academic studies with playing high level football for an American college. We wish them all the best in their journey and in the future. If you wish to follow in their footsteps fill out the form on the YFS website!
Joe is no stranger to YFS - having studied in our Journalism & Media course earlier this year during the pandemic!
3) Returning to training – Edinburgh City FC , Edina Hibs, EK Burgh United, Dryburgh Athletic. Yet more teams have returned to training after the long absence due to the coronavirus pandemic, following the governments easing of lockdown measures. More teams are returning to non-contact training hoping to return to league football as soon as possible.
5) Scots abroad – Finally, Scottish striker Ewan Urain Roy Aird, has begun training with the Athletico Bilbao first team squad. The 20 year old has scored three times in six appearances for the Athletico Bilbao B side in the Segunda División B.
The lanky striker was born in nearby Durango, to a Scottish mother, which may well be a stroke of luck given Athletic's policy to bring through local Basque players from the surrounding area. In fact, since 1912 the club has only played players deemed to be Basque. The criteria has been both applauded and criticised, but either way it offers a chance for a potential Scot to play in La Liga.
Although he may not quite be on Steve Clarke's radar just yet, if the 6'3" striker (known locally as Ewan Urain) keeps impressing Joseba Etxeberria he may just be in line for a debut this season. He has already impressed in the youth ranks, scoring 11 goals during the 17-18 season for the under-18s and 13 goals for Basconia during the 18-19 season.
Basconia are one of Athletic's feeder teams and they play in the fourth tier of Spanish football. He graduated to the B team in the 19-20 season, scoring three goals in six appearances.
The Ross County back-line looks completely different to the one that kept them up last season. Now, they have one of their own in defence - Josh Reid.
Born in 2002, Josh is just 18 but already has already started all five games this season for the Dingwall side.
The youngster joined the club academy at the age of eight and a decade on he has become the team’s first-choice left-back, following the departure of Sean Kelly from the club.
Not only that, but he’s started the new season strongly, helping County gain seven points from the first five games of the season.
In the team’s two wins, Josh has shown great ability and maturity beyond his years to keep attackers at bay.
Although unable to get into games, fans are excited by what they see in their new local talent. Many have taken to social media to comment on his dribbling ability and strong physical presence on the pitch from what they’ve seen so far and many County faithful are getting very excited by the brilliant prospect they have in their ranks.
“His pace is just electric and he looks like he can be amazing. We are all definitely hopeful as to if he can match the hype around him so far,” were the comments of one excitable Staggies fan.
Their views were backed up by former youth team-mate Logan Ross – a man who relied on Josh playing well in front of him.
The under-18 goalkeeper told YFS: “His ability is insane. He can do whatever he wants on the pitch because he’s so composed, brave and outgoing on and off the ball.
“I’d say journeys like his, with the team, are the reason that I have been inspired not to give up on what I want to do in life and play for this club”
Indeed, it seems that Josh’s journey is inspiring many youngsters at the club. Under-16 midfielder William Urquhart agreed: “I would love to have a rise to the top like Josh has, but that can only be done through hours of extra hard work over the years”.
Youth players can certainly take inspiration from Josh’s journey at Ross County – it’s the dream to follow in those kinds of footsteps and go from boy to man at your local club.
Looking ahead to the future, Scotland fans might be left groaning at another promising player coming through at left-back as opposed to other positions. However, Staggies fans are already confident that Reid can at least emulate the current incumbents of the number three shirt – Andy Robertson and Kieran Tierney.
For now, Josh will be hoping to get a call up to play in the upcoming under-19 internationals for Billy Stark’s Scotland team.
Although only five games into the season, we have already seen flashes of who could be one of the turning forces in Scottish footballs exciting new wave of youth football.
Many will hope young Reid can reach his full potential and excel be one of the stars of the Scottish game in seasons to come.
In a year which has been full of problems and difficulties for clubs, it is amazing to see those who will be the stars of tomorrow getting the chance to shine for their teams.
You may think of the name Robinson when thinking of Motherwell – due to manager Stephen - but you are probably unlikely to have heard about his son Harry, who recently made his SPFL debut for the Lanarkshire outfit. Euan Wood reports.
Harry was born in September 2000 in Preston, but grew up in Northern Ireland and was born into a footballing family. His father had previously being on the books of Premier League giants Tottenham and (then lower-league) Bournemouth as a player, and has since gone on to manage at Oldham as well as the Steelmen.
Therefore, it is no surprise that Harry has aspired to follow in his dad’s footsteps.
Harry is versatile midfielder, who can play on either wing, and can take the ball under pressure and can help link up the play. His passing ability is a key part of his game and he can press the full backs and setting up players in the box.
His professional career began at 16-years-old when he signed for Oldham and he made his debut at 18. However, his playing time was somewhat limited with the turbulent circumstances at the club. Having several manager changes in such a short space of time, Harry couldn’t find a consistent place in the first team squad.
Internationally, he has made several appearances in the Northern Ireland youth setup and has scored four times across the under-16, under-19 and under-21 teams. He has yet to make a first team international appearance, but the winger is certainly one for the future.
Speaking to Motherwell media Harry said: “I moved over when I was 16, made my debut just as I turned 18 but then I had about eight different managers, so it was hard. You get in with one manager then he would be gone.”
To gain some valuable game time Harry took a loan spell back to Belfast to play with Crusaders for three months. After playing ten times for the Northern Irish side, Harry returned to Oldham before being released from his contract.
Following his departure from Oldham, Harry signed for Motherwell on deadline day in January after he impressed the club by scoring against Morton while on trial.
Despite the expected scepticism being the managers son, Harry made it clear he joined the club for the coaching and because of the size of the club - not because his dad’s the manager.
“It wasn’t anything to do with my dad that made me come here. It was just the fact that it’s a good club.
“I trained in a mix between the reserves and the first team every day and played all the games for the reserves, so it was good because I hadn’t played in months.”
Since the return of football following the coronavirus pandemic Harry has been training everyday with the first team squad. His addition to the first team has been pushing other wingers for their place in the starting eleven.
Having experienced predominantly youth football in the opening of his career, Harry’s move to Motherwell has shown his ambition to play with the first team in front of crowds.
“I want to be playing every week, whether that’s here or going on loan first to come back to be a first team Motherwell player.
“I just want to play in front of crowds. I want to establish myself as a first team player now.”
Harry will have tough competition this season but looks set to be one of the SPFL’s next top
prospects. He will have to compete with fellow wingers Jermaine Hylton, Sherwin Seedorf (a distant relative to the famous Clarence) and the returning Jake Hastie who is on loan back to Motherwell from Rangers.
Despite having a slow start to the 2020/21 campaign, Motherwell still look even stronger than they have in recent seasons. They’ve made nine additions to the squad, including Scotland international and former Kilmarnock right-back Stephen O’Donnell.
After poor performances against Ross County, Dundee United and Livingston, frustrated manager Stephen Robinson made his feelings known.
“I have been patient with players but some of them were told tonight in no uncertain terms we are playing with seven men each week.”
“That won’t keep happening.”
Robinson’s furious response clearly merited a reaction, as the team dominated unbeaten Hibs and were unlucky not to take all three points having a goal disallowed in the first half. If Motherwell can replicate this type of performance on a consistent basis, they look well placed to have another successful season.
(Quotes and image taken from Motherwell FC's website.)
Kim Little will go down as one of Scotland’s best ever footballers.
The Arsenal captain’s honours list includes three FA Women’s Super League titles, BBC and FA Player of the Year Awards, NWSL MVP and Golden Boot awards, as well as many other prizes over an 11 year playing career.
She also has 137 caps for Scotland (at time of writing), making her Scotland’s fourth most capped player.
Recently, she sat down (over Skype) with James McLeay for the Beyond Canal Park podcast – available on Apple, Spotify, Google and Anchor. In these podcasts, James meets with sporting characters from the North and discusses their career, with guests such as Colin Hendry and Stewart McKimmie.
Kim was born in Mintlaw, Aberdeenshire, in 1990. She admitted that sport played a part in her life from an early age: “As a family - my mum dad, brother and sister - we were always so sporty and so active. Our mum and dad were always giving us opportunities to do loads of different sports. I did athletics, cross country, badminton, all those things.
“I played with Mintlaw Boys Club until I was 12 or 13, maybe even a little bit older, and with the Mintlaw Academy school team as well. I started playing for Buchan Girls when I was 10 in 2000… but I played with boys and continued to for as long as I was allowed to.
“There was lots of selfless parents and teachers who gave a lot of their free time. Obviously, my parents were a big influence, our coaches at Buchan… Euan Reid [who gave the grinning child the nickname ‘Smiler’], I played with his daughter Leanne – she was one of my best friends at school and we used to play football all the time. Her brothers were all involved.
“From our school teams as well – our PE teachers, Mr Robertson, Mr Mair at Mintlaw Academy, were always investing their time. There was so many I could name that gave up their time for us and gave us the opportunity to play football, for both the boys team and the girls team. A lot of my friends played football at school, so it was a social thing, but we did very well as a school team too.”
Kim developed her taste for silverware from an early age, as her team were the only to win the Junior and Senior Scottish Cups for their age group.
“We used to play the North East Cup and then the Scottish Cup. I don’t know how many times we won it in a row, but we had such a good team that played for Buchan and played for the school team as well, and we did well pretty consistently.”
The youngster garnered a reputation for giving referees a mouthful, as well as enjoying a singsong on the bus, but more importantly she was starting to get noticed by scouts.
“I did a few different tournaments where we went down to north of England. We played Man United Girls and Everton Girls, and went into their training grounds. To be honest, I wouldn’t say I thought I was going to have a career in football until very late on in my teenage years. It’s not something I thought I would make a living from.”
“I started to represent Scotland at under-15 level, and we used to travel down the central belt to go to trials for schoolgirls. That opened doors because different people are seeing you play and more teams are down in Edinburgh and Glasgow.”
Kim signed for the Hibs’ youth team in 2004 and was promoted to the senior team by 2006, aged just 16. She used to make the seven-hour round trip to Edinburgh from Aberdeen every week for training and for game days.
“I remember my mum was going to take me down for the first day to Hibs. I was like ‘I’m not sure I want to go’ – it was that [fear] of a new thing, but my teammates with the national teams played and asked if I wanted to go down.
“It’s a pretty long journey, but when you’re a kid you don’t even recognise that but now I’m not sure I’d be able to do it! We used to go down to Dalkeith, the other side of Edinburgh.
“From the age of 15 or 16 we would travel down one day a week to train, and then a Sunday to play the game. I would train and do other bits up at home. I had to miss Wednesday maths and English single periods – gutted!”
In her first season with the Hibees she scored 55 goals in 30 games followed by 33 in 18. These performances showed plenty of other teams what a talent the small Scot had, and she soon attracted even bigger attention – despite still sitting exams at Mintlaw Academy.
“I juggled both [school and football] pretty well. Whatever I put my mind to I make sure I give as much as I can to that. I wouldn’t say I was the most academic but I definitely worked hard to get my Highers. That came from my parents, emphasising the importance of that side of things.”
In 2008, Little joined Arsenal, where her form continued to show on the pitch. Kim flourished in her five years at the Gunners and, in her second season, Arsenal won the treble and she was crowned Player of the Year, finishing as the league's top scorer having scored 47 goals in the entire season.
Kim has to be classed as an idol to young girls wanting to play football at the highest level, and one of the key figures in giving the sport the representation it deserves across the country.
To find out more about the Scot’s glistening career across the UK, America and Australia be sure to check out the Beyond Canal Park podcast where she spoke about her career and names her All-Time XI of players she’s played with.
It is available at the following places:
You may have heard the name Lewis Neilson in recent weeks, after the youngster started Dundee United’s opening game of the season against St Johnstone, but not much else is known about the defender. Ross Wardrop reports.
Lewis was born on the 15th May 2003 in Dundee and, interestingly, grew up next door to former a United player who now plays in the Premier League with Southampton - Stuart Armstrong. It’s therefore unsurprising that Neilson has commented that Armstrong was his motivation as he grew up aspiring to become a professional footballer!
The defender started at DUSC 1984 before joining United at the age of 10, and signed a contract extension at Dundee United, just before the country went into lockdown (on the same day he was called up to the Scotland U17s squad), that will keep him at the club until the end of the 21/22 season.
Away from Dundee, the United academy graduate, who recently changed positions from central midfield, played three games between the U16s & U17s national squads. With two senior appearances for United (at time of writing), it wouldn’t be surprising to see him add to his national caps under head coach Brian McLaughlin.
Andy Goldie, academy director at Tannadice, told YFS exclusively: "Lewis’ transition to full-time football has been nothing short of outstanding.
"In the space of a year he has been training with the first team squad, learning a new position having previously played in midfield, achieved four Higher As and now has two competitive appearances under his belt at 17 years old.
"His progress is testament to his work ethic, sacrifice and commitment to his development both on and off the pitch and highlights the opportunity young players have to develop as people and footballers at Dundee United Football Club."
Lewis' mental attributes have clearly sped up his involvement with the first team - but Andy believes the youngster also has the physical and technical skills required for Premiership level.
"He is a modern day central defender who loves to initiate attacks by stepping into midfield or utilising his passing ability to penetrate, but has also made great progress in his defensive performance working under the mentorship of Mark Reynolds and Mark Connolly.
"He has a taste for First Team Football now and the manager has shown that age is merely a number so there is no limit on what he can achieve here either short or long term if he continue to build on his success so far."
As Andy mentioned, Lewis was one of a number of United players who received their Higher qualifications recently, with the 17-year-old achieving As in English, Business and PE, as well as a B in Maths - which could improve with a successful appeal, to give the former St John’s RC High pupil top marks across the board.
After making his debut against St. Johnstone in the opening game of the Scottish
Premiership season, Lewis said in an interview with DUTV: “It’s excellent to finally get my debut in the way I did, starting in the first game in the Premiership, it’s a great feeling. The exciting part for me is that the gaffer has faith in young players and is willing to give them a chance.”
He also mentioned that he didn’t expect to make his debut after the Tangerines got promoted to the Premiership, and potentially expected to go out on loan before making it but thanked new manager, Micky Mellon, for giving him a chance.
It is also clear that the new gaffer is keen to give Lewis and other academy graduates a chance in the first team - not only playing them in cup games but potentially giving them an opportunity to play in league games.
In his post-match interview, Mellon said: “When the opportunity comes, and I believe it’s the right time, I will put any of them [youngsters] in… We will speak to Lewis next week and say about the areas he has to improve in to keep moving himself forward to be the footballer that we all believe he can be.”
For Neilson, working under a manager like Mellon should suit him and his playing style
massively as he looks to grow as a player and progress further in his footballing career.
Newly promoted Dundee United look to be an exciting side this Premiership season, captained by experienced defender Mark Reynolds, with power up top in Lawrence Shankland and Nicky Clark.
With four points from three games so far, United will be looking to build on an encouraging start. Add to that the inclusion of youngsters and academy graduates Louis Appere, Logan Chalmers, Kieran Freeman, Declan Glass, Chris Mochrie, and Jamie Robson (easy to forget he’s still just 22) and it’s clear to see it’s a good time to be a United fan.