Golden opportunity for new generation

Aaron McNeil shows off his skills to coach Gordon Craig
Aaron McNeil shows off his skills to coach Gordon Craig

SFA coach Gordon Craig is confident Braidhurst High School in Motherwell can produce its first Scotland internationalists since Gary McAllister made his debut in a dark blue shirt more than 20 years ago.

Craig has travelled around the world honing his coaching skills and is now part of SFA performance director Mark Wotte’s vision of transforming youth football in this country.

Previously a ‘sports comprehensive’, additional funding will transform Braidhurst into an ‘elite performance football academy’ complete with a brand new 3G pitch as part of the SFA’s £15 million four-year investment in seven locations.

Craig, who has been transferred to Braidhurst from Graeme High in Falkirk, with Ian Ross going in the other direction, said: “Coaching is a passion for me. At 16 I was on an SFA course which was my first experience of being coached properly.

“That was 25 years ago and ever since I’ve taught the kids at various clubs and found that I had a real knack for it.”

Craig started his travels at Benfica in Portugal and has coached in other parts of Europe, America and Australia. He gained his SFA badges and worked at Livingston and Hearts.

PROJECT

He said: “I worked on the pilot project for the football academy scheme and had two years at Graeme High which produced the likes of Craig Sibbald, of Falkirk, and Paul McMullan, of Celtic.

“There is no doubt in my mind the youngsters at Braidhurst will get better. I’m convinced some of them will go on to play for the Scottish national team.

“We are creating a special type of player who will be creative and technical, brave and gallus - the type of player that excites me greatly.”

The football academy scheme has received the full backing of Motherwell FC’s head of youth development, Gordon Young.

He said: “It is so important we get the integration at this stage in the young players’ development. We are delighted at the financial commitment the SFA has made and the local council for making these facilities available.

“As a club I think we are a crucial third partner and it has to be a tri-party agreement. It has been a full buy-in from our point of view and from the SFA because they want to nurture and develop the best young talent.”

Braidhurst High head teacher Derrick Hannan is delighted by the school’s continued progress in the development of Scottish football.

He said: “We were designated as a school of football in 2008 and the model has proven a huge success. It has been held up as a model of good practice by the SFA, not only for football, but also academic attainment.

“This latest announcement is an exciting development for everyone connected with the school and a testament to the hard work put in so far by school staff, Gordon Young and our football development team.”