Archive for the ‘Sport’ Category

“Just keep smiling” is the advice Jim Fleeting (pictured, right) would like to give to young players learning the game. It’s a simple yet important message that strikes to the core of what youth football should be about – fun.

Fleeting, a former professional player and manager, is the Director of Football Development for the Scottish Football Association, and amongst his various duties he trains coaches at the National Sports Centre in Largs. It’s where José Mourinho and André Villas-Boas both famously obtained their UEFA qualifications.

Much has changed in youth football since Fleeting was learning the game at an early age. There wasn’t any youth clubs in his day. He learned the basics by kicking whatever he could find up and down the hall in his house. The first youth club he played for was at Under 15’s level, although he played school football from Primary 7. Fleeting also attended the Boys Brigade (BB) after his friend told him it was another way to get an extra game of football. It was the football that mattered.

Fleeting said:

“I definitely wasn’t born with a ball at my feet. I’m the old generation; we didn’t have a lot. I used to play in the house. We kicked whatever we had up and down the hall. We’d just play away with whatever someone gave us and it would amuse us for a long time.

“These days you can fall out your bed and find a team somewhere. In our day you had to go and search for a team. I don’t like harking back, and I’m not saying it’s bad that there’s a difference between now and the olden days, that’s just how it is. But I thoroughly enjoyed every bit of it. I enjoyed my school football and I enjoyed my BB football. My first boys club was in Irvine – a guy called Jimmy Black very thankfully took us, that’s how it started.”

Fleeting began his professional career with Norwich City, before joining Ayr United, where he played for six years. He went on to play for Clyde and Greenock Morton  before returning to Clyde, where he finished his playing career. He was then appointed manager of Stirling Albion in 1988, before moving on to manage Kilmarnock from 1989 to 1992. Fleeting, like every other professional footballer, learned many lessons as a youngster before reaching this level.

School football figures high in Fleeting’s estimation and he has fond memories of playing at that level. He was a pupil of St Michael’s Academy in Kilwinning and during his time there he represented both the school and Ayrshire. One of the most important things he credits youth football for in his life is discipline. It’s a lesson he learned from the game, particularly from school football, that has stuck with him throughout his days. He said:

“Discipline has always been a big thing for me, and its been a big thing in my family too. I enjoyed the school football for that greatly; the teacher taking the team and ensuring discipline within the team – and if there was indiscipline in the classroom, you didn’t get a game. I liked that idea of the discipline they had in those days.”

Discipline has helped Fleeting develop a lot of life skills. Another life skill he credits football for helping give him is respect. Fleeting pointed to Willie Knox, who is famous for his multiple Scottish Cup trophy victories at Auchinleck Talbot, as a great advocate of being respectful, disciplined and working hard when he was couched by him at a young age. Fleeting feels it’s important for young players to respect one another, respect their opponents and to respect life in general. He said:

“Respect and discipline helps you learn what to do and what not to do, so I’m a big believer that you should respect everybody no matter who or where they come from. I’ve taken that through my youth career and senior career and I feel very proud for doing that. I would say this was put into me at a very young age.”

Fleeting did the rounds in his career. He went from school football and the BB’s onto youth clubs, he even played pub football on a Sunday and then went into the junior and amateur game. Passionate about the sport, he always played and always enjoyed where he played. Junior and amateur football was also important in his football education and was an enjoyable experience for him. He likes the social side of the amateur game as well as the community aspect in the junior and youth games.

“I’m quite comfortable paying my five quid and going along to one of those games because you get more than just the game on the park, you get the patter at the side of the park. I’m quite grounded on a football side of things. I’m lucky to have that.” he said.

Norwich was the first professional club Fleeting signed for and he was 19 when they told him they were interested in him. Although he had options to remain in Scotland, he went to Norwich with a £300 signing on fee, got married and plied his trade at centre half.

“I was fortunate enough that people were saying I was a decent player when I played for Kilbirnie Ladeside. I was 19 and one or two clubs were asking whether I would go and sign for them, and of course Norwich came along asking who the ugly looking guy at the back was. A couple of good clubs up here were asking so I thought I would go to Norwich first as I could always come back when they found out how bad I was! I did come back up after a few years and a club actually bought me for a couple of thousand pounds, which was nice.”

Having played, coached and managed at all levels of the Scottish game, Fleeting has amassed a lifetime of experience of Scottish football. His role as Director of Football Development has him entrenched in the game, overseeing football development and providing coaching education at all levels. His advice for young people in the youth game is simply to enjoy the football. He said:

“Just keep smiling. Whatever you do in life just smile. If you’re not enjoying it, and you don’t have that smile, please please please find out why. I’m very passionate about football – it’s given me so much; a livelihood, it’s given my family a livelihood too and it’s given me so many friendships it’s unbelievable. I’m the luckiest man ever. Just keep smiling and life is nice. Life is really good.”

Originally published by Youth Football Scotland

On Thursday night we gathered at Hampden in honour of the true heroes of Scotland’s national game. This prestigious occasion was for the people who give up every moment of free time to dedicate themselves to the beautiful game at its most honest level – the grassroots. Amidst the canopies, black ties and grandeur – a far cry from the tracksuits and muddy parks of a Saturday or Sunday morning – stood some of the game’s most inspiring individuals.

The Scottish FA Grassroots Awards 2012 was a humbling occasion and there was not a story told on the night that wouldn‘t inspire anyone to muck in and do their bit to promote the good work that‘s done countrywide day-in, day-out.

The awards, in their ninth year and supported by McDonald’s and the Sunday Mail, were attended by Scotland’s national team manager, Craig Levein, and arguably Scotland’s greatest ever player, Kenny Dalglish. A look around the room at the high profile attendees gave a good example of the emphasis and high esteem placed upon the event, and the grassroots game.

The deserving winners on the night were:

BEST VOLUNTEER IN YOUTH FOOTBALL

Derek Paterson,
Kelso FC

BEST VOLUNTEER IN DISABILITY FOOTBALL

Yvonne Alexander,
Grampian

BEST VOLUNTEER IN SCHOOLS FOOTBALL

John Peterson, Mintlaw HS

BEST VOLUNTEER IN WOMEN’S/ GIRLS FOOTBALL

Doug Johnston,
Linlithgow Rose CFC

BEST VOLUNTEER IN ADULT FOOTBALL

Hugh Carswell,
Scotland Amateurs

BEST COACH IN YOUTH FOOTBALL

Tony Begg,
Loanhead Miners YFC

McDONALD’S COMMUNITY CHAMPION AWARD

James Strathdee,
Glasgow City Girls FC

BEST COMMUNITY FOOTBALL CLUB
Westdyke CFC

BEST PROFESSIONAL CLUB IN THE COMMUNITY

Stenhousemuir FC

MERIT AWARD SERVICES TO GRASSROOTS FOOTBALL

Robert McCallum,
Gartcairn CFC

There were excellent speeches from the winners and from the likes of Jim Fleeting and Craig Levein, but it was probably Kenny Dalglish who best captured  the splendour of the grassroots game.

Dalglish said:

“I’ve been there, I’ve been out forking pitches, putting up nets and doing what I could to see my own son got a game when he was younger – I know how much hard work goes in. If my own mum hadn’t washed the strips for our team, I might never have got a game myself as a kid.

“And the beauty of all the football I’ve seen through my association with this project over the past decade is that I’ve never yet seen a kid come off the park without a smile on their face.

“That’s the important thing in all of this, that they love the game, and it’s what everyone should be most proud of.”

Anyone involved in the grassroots game could probably ring off a dozen or so suggestions for deserving winners and that’s a very good situation for us to be in as a nation. It’s not hard to find to a willing worker to roll up their sleeves for the game.

It’s for this reason that each of the winners were keen to share the praise they received with their extended team of coaches and volunteers. In each winners’ speech the word ‘we’ was common and this perfectly sums up the grassroots game. It is selfless people working hard for the greater good, with football being their method.

The winners of these awards, like the many other local heroes not present on the night, are champions of their communities. They are not just developing footballers, they are developing people and communities, and for that reason above all others – we salute you!

 

(Originally published on Youth Football Scotland)

Communities are the lifeblood of a nation. The author Dan Wakefield said: “Simply being with other people who are also seekers and who are involved in the same quest you are, is very meaningful.” He was talking about the importance of being part of a good community.Picture

Youth football is an important part of a community because football is capable of achieving so much. Football can bring the best out of people and help young people develop skills, friendships and memories that they will keep with them for the rest of their lives. It can also be the source of community building events that can make positive changes to the lives of everyone.

At the beginning of the season there was a massive turnout at a charity seven-a-side competition called ‘Kids, Doing it for Kids‘. Around 125 local children, all from the 2001 age group, took part in an attempt to raise at least £500 for the Yorkhill Hospital for Sick Children.

Throughout the tournament, parents, coaches and even passers-by gave generous donations time and time again, further to the entry fee they had already paid to get in. Their generosity was only matched by their support as they cheered all the teams involved from start to finish. In the end, the event raised over £800 for Yorkhill and was a perfect example of how youth football can benefit a community.

The event’s organiser, Mossend FC Secretary Billy McQueen, said at the time: “Recently one of the boys in our 2002 squad was diagnosed with leukaemia. Thankfully he is now in remission. He did spend a lot of time at Yorkhill, where he received his treatment.”

There was a tremendous feel-good factor to the ‘Kids Doing it for Kids’ festival. It was a fantastic event, full of good humour, good football and saw every single person leave with a smile on their face. Everyone contributed to the event in one way or another and it succeeded in bringing the community together with the common goal of raising money for a good cause.

Youth football is much more than forming footballers for the future, it has a role in shaping the future of the country through how it develops young people. Football provides a sense of unity. A sense of “We’re all in this together”. Youth football offers a means for people to come together and share a passion for the game, through which children and young people are given the opportunity to develop new skills and knowledge. It’s something that can only benefit a community if the skills and values of the game are taught properly.

It’s coaches that make it happen; they are the ones that teach young footballers not only the game, but the lessons that sport and competition offer in terms of personal social development. They are the drive of the game at grassroots level. The manager for Glenvale‘s 1996 team, Danny McKim, has coached youth football in Paisley for fifteen years. He said:

“I would say that youth football plays a massive part in the community. There must be thousands of kids training every night of the week all over Scotland, preparing for their games at the weekend. These days its not just a case of a boy going along to training on his own and then heading off on a Saturday or a Sunday, also on his own, for his fixture. I would say in most cases the full family is involved. Probably most of these families arrange their weekend around games and also become socially involved with other families within their clubs.”

The idea of families building their weekends around youth football is a positive one in so many different ways. Once again, it’s communities coming together with youth football as the catalyst. Danny is in his fifth season at Glenvale and prior to that he coached the 1990 age group at another local club for 10 years. He said: “During this time I have seen friendships within players and families develop on and off the field.”

Youth football can teach youngsters important life skills such as respect, competition, communication, leadership, responsibility and the ability to build relationships. Youth football can give young people everything they need to develop into adults, not to mention the physical benefits it can bring to their health and general wellbeing. Danny said:

“Kids can now start playing football from age 4 and I would say that by the time they are 18 most will have moved onto different things. If you think about it, this is probably more years than they would attend school. This means that players are growing up in a competitive environment, but also most coaches will encourage that they respect their opponents.

“Within teams, players will go to school together and also go to school with players they play against at their age group. Growing up like this in most cases encourages friendly banter, mutual respect and takes away the gang culture we grew up in. I would say that if a boy or a girl grows up playing football they will get to know far more people and enjoy social activities that they would not come across in other pastimes.”

Youth coaches are actually important community figures – it is the coaches after all that give so much of their time to developing their players. What is it the coaches get out of it? Danny’s reward is seeing his players progress. He said:

“I would say that most coaches are not looking for any return for their time and effort. Personally, I look for improvement when I’m working with various teams. When I started coaching 15 years ago with the 1990 age group, I learned as I went. We progressed as time went by. We went from 20th out of 24, to 12th, 6th and 1st over 4 seasons. We also won 8 cups over 11 years. I would say that as long as the coaches and the players work hard at training, and also have a bit of fun, with players constantly given positive encouragement and also a new player here and there to freshen things up, it won’t guarantee success but it should keep both the players and supporters committed to your team.

“The 1996 age group I am involved with just now is hopefully going along a similar pathway. When we started 5 seasons ago there were 36 teams at this age. We were last to start and were the bottom of the pile. Thanks to the hard work of the coaches and players I would say we are now in the top 6. We also managed to win The den bosch cup in Holland at easter 2011. This is fantastic progress considering all the other teams had a good few seasons start on us.”

It’s the shared sense of ambition and achievement – important elements that good communities are built upon – that drives them and keeps everyone involved and feeling the rewards of their efforts. Coaches and players are constantly trying to improve and better themselves and this is a fantastic mentality to bring to a community.

Youth football has also been actively used as a means to get young people off the street and onto the pitch, to benefit communities. In 2006 the Coalfields Regeneration Trust (CRT) joined the Bank of Scotland and the SFA in the Bank of Scotland Midnight Leagues for young people in Scottish former mining areas. The first programme ran in just 8 locations but it proved so successful that CRT in 2007, increased its support and extended its involvement. In the last five years, the leagues have run in over 20 locations with over 1,100 young people taking part each year across all of the former Scottish coalfields.

According to those involved, the initiative has had a massive impact on communities through; improved health and motivation for the young people involved, less anti-social behaviour and crime in local communities, involvement of young people in grassroots football, encouragement of adults to support the leagues as volunteers and the signposting of wider opportunities to young people involved in the leagues.

Convenor of Sport and Recreation for Clackmannanshire Council, Cllr Bobby McGill, said:

“In Clackmannanshire, our Midnight Leagues, held at Alloa F C’s Recreation Park, are one of the biggest in the country with well over 100 young people taking part. A great achievement for the Wee County! The Council, our sports development staff and the local police are delighted with the impact of the leagues and very pleased to receive the support of CRT, the SFA and the Bank of Scotland in making them happen. The young people and local communities across the County are benefiting from the initiative”

Through the project, CRT has also funded equipment, coach training and first aid for youth football clubs in the ex-coalfields areas further to the support from the Bank of Scotland and the SFA. SFA Football Development Officer, Jim Grant, said:

“The leagues which myself and colleagues from West Lothian Council run in Blackburn and other locations in the County show very clearly the positive impact on the boys and girls who come along. Youth service staff and community police officers who are building better relationships with young people and local communities very much welcome the initiative. But as a ‘football man’ I just love seeing so many young people playing our national game, keeping fit and really enjoying themselves.”

It is clear that youth football is a huge benefit to communities and should be celebrated for the role it has in the lives of all who are involved.

The obvious benefits to the physical health and character building of young people offered by football must never be overlooked nor should the role it can have in bringing a community together and raising money for causes.

The Dan Wakefield quote about the importance of being part of a good community can also be applied to youth football. To be part of the same quest, such as being part of a team, is very meaningful as is the shared sense of achievement. The pillars that form a community and youth football are not very far apart.

Originally published by Youth Football Scotland

We all like to see young players coming through their club’s youth academy and performing for the first team, and hopefully even in the dark blue of Scotland. As a nation, it gives us pride when a Scottish player achieves success for both club and country. Just think of the moment McFadden scored that 30-yard screamer against France in Paris, or the pride you feel when you watch Gemmill dancing through the Dutch defence in the footage of World Cup 78. Those goals were scored by Scots! Home-bred Scots!Picture

There’s no doubt that youth development is, and always has been, important to Scottish football. Now, on an economic level the game in this country isn’t as healthy as it once was so Scottish football more than ever is dependant on developing young players, and there is arguably nothing more profitable for a club than a consistent youth academy, capable of bringing through quality youngsters year on year.

The hunt is always on for new blood but what does it take to be the next Darren Fletcher or James McFadden? What was it that made the likes of Kenny Dalglish, Jimmy Johnstone and Ally McCoist stand out? We all think we know a good player when we see one but there are some people who make a living out of talent spotting, and more importantly, talent development. What is it they look for in young players?

Head of the Inverness Caledonian Thistle Youth Academy is ex-player and manager Charlie Christie (pictured, right) and he says: “First and foremost I look for good balance, coordination and ability. The aim is to develop players over a substantial length of time by focusing on technique at the younger age levels and then introducing a more tactical awareness to their game as they reach the early teenage years.”

Since Rangers built their Murray Park training complex, they have a proven track record of developing young talent. Charlie Adam, Alan Hutton, Allan McGregor, Danny Wilson and Chris Burke are a hand-full of examples of players who have come through the academy to have successful careers. Craig Mulholland is the Academy Operations Manager for Rangers Football Club and when I asked him what Rangers look for in a young player he said:

“The Academy assesses players using the 4 A’s method – Ability, Athleticism, Attitude and Awareness. Within each of these four categories are more detailed criteria, which our recruitment team and coaching staff use to evaluate prospective and current Academy players.”

So, each club is out looking for new players to develop but when in their youth is it most ideal to find a youngster? Is there a best age from which to develop a player? Charlie Christie says: “I don’t know if there is a ‘best age’ but would certainly argue that the earlier a youngster joins the club the easier it can be to develop them. Ideally we like to have kids in our system from perhaps age 8-9 years old.”.

Once a player joins an academy they can be sure of the best training available to them and access to a wealth of knowledge from coaches and ex-professionals to help them become the best they can possibly be. At Inverness Caledonian Thistle, the average week for a young player consists of 2 technical coaching sessions of 90minutes each, one sports science/fitness evening of around one hour and a competitive match on a Sunday.

According to Craig Mulholland, at Rangers a holistic approach is taken to developing players as the club seeks to develop not only the footballer, but the person too. Their coaching staff, who must all have an SFA Childrens Licence (10’s to 12’s) or a Youth Licence (13’s to 17’s), are regularly in-serviced and meet frequently to ensure the professional delivery of their progressive age specific curriculum. Mulholland says:

“Our long term player development plan takes cognisance of the various ages and stages in a young person’s development and where they will benefit most from certain activities. By having a long term plan and an age specific programme for both football and non-football education we are hopefully maximising the gains that can be made at each stage of a players development. Our coaches are also strategically placed to ensure their experience, knowledge and skills set is best suited to enhancing the learning experience of that specific age group.”

There is no doubt that there is a lot more to being a top player than just ability with things like mentality and attitude ranked as just as important at Rangers. Their academy is intensive and designed so that dedication and attitude is as important a factor in their players as their God-given talent.

“Our youngest players of 9’s and 10’s can train from 1 to 3 sessions per week, while our players from 11’s to 16’s are doing four sessions or more in a normal week, in addition to their match. Over and above the standard programme, our most talented players at 14’s, 15’s and 16’s level participate in a school day release programme which adds a further 7 hours of training per week. Our full-time professionals from 17’s onwards participate in a minimum of 7 sessions per week, in addition to a match, encompassing technical, tactical, game awareness, physical and mental development.” said Mulholland.

Youngsters playing at youth level across the country probably wonder how it is players are ‘discovered’ by the top clubs. Each club has their own preference for finding players, for example Inverness Caledonian Thistle like to look locally when searching for new talent:

“We tend to recruit players by attending school, boys club and street league matches in our area, plus through word of mouth from several adults who are involved in football in our area. Due to our geography, it is difficult at the younger age levels to spread our catchments too far but we certainly look for players within a 2 hour drive from Inverness from ages 15 upwards, although we do have some at the younger age levels.” said Christie.

He continued: “Rather than watching a player for a number of games we like to invite them in to train with the appropriate age squad over a 4-6 week period. This gives a far better indication of how they fare against the better players in this area.”.

Inverness Caledonian Thistle currently have around 120 players in their elite youth set-up and most of these players have continued on from previous seasons. The club tends to introduce around 15 – 20 new players each season.

Rangers are one of the ‘big two’ in Scotland and obviously have greater resources at their disposal than most other clubs, so they are able to look far and wide for potential players for their youth academy. Below the age of U15’s they have an extensive network of scouts who cover Scotland ensuring that the club is well aware of the best young talent in the country. After the age of 15 they extend this coverage wider and have staff and contacts in a variety of countries out with Scotland. The amount of players Rangers recruit each year varies from season to season, however the academy prefers to keep all of their squads as small as possible to ensure maximum playing time for each player.

Ambitious young players who would like to make a career in the game should simply enjoy playing the game they love, and work hard at developing their strengths and weaknesses. Undoubtedly sacrifices must be made to make it to the top, where the rewards are fantastic, and only the most dedicated players will succeed. says: “It is not an easy path to become a professional footballer and in addition to requiring exceptional talent, which can only be developed through discipline and dedication, a youngster desperate to succeed must also ensure that they live correctly off the pitch to ensure they have the best possible chance.”

As and ex-player and manager at the top level in Scottish football, Charlie Christie has some advice for aspiring footballers: “My advice would be to maximise the amount of time they practice from a very early age. Three coaching sessions alone is not enough and young players must spend time on their own or with friends perfecting their skill set and abilities. I stress this to all our young players and their parents every season.”

Originally published by Youth Football Scotland

Since I began writing about youth football the one thing I have found most surprising is the facilities. Quite a few years ago now, I played youth football on the course and bumpy red ash pitches in East Kilbride. In fact, I still have scars on my hands and knees from those pitches to prove it. Picture

 

The first youth game I ever played was aged 7 for St Louise Primary School at the Westwood Hill pitches in East Kilbride. It was a horrible rainy day and as anyone who has ever played on a wet red ash pitch will know, the surface turns to sludge and red puddles form all over the park. Five minutes into the game I jumped to win a header, only to flop over the back of the leaning midfielder beneath me and land with a splat in a red tinged puddle. I got to my feet and found I was twice as heavy from my sodden kit and I couldn’t tell where the ash ended and my blood began. A man laughing at the side of the park shouted “Welcome to real football”. He wasn’t kidding, I had many more experiences like that one. Playing on a red ash pitch on a dry day wasn’t much better. Passes would bobble and bounce in unnatural directions and falling on a red ash pitch would result in losing a few layers of skin. To say it was a difficult surface to play on is being kind.

That said, Imagine me shuffling around the Toryglen Regional Football Centre (pictured, above right) for the first time recently, mouth opened, unblinking and muttering the word “Luxury” over and over. It was at that moment that I realised just has far we’ve come in offering young footballers the best possible facilities. Absolute luxury. Many people are critical of synthetic surfaces and I’ve heard a lot of parents at youth matches talk about the old ash pitches like they were lavish and fit for a king. I then wonder whether any of them ever had to pick pieces of ash out of their teeth after being chopped down by a centre back twice their size. There is not a worse surface to play on than red ash.

 

It seems that most of the ash pitches have been replaced by synthetic ones but some of the artificial surfaces are not perfect. An audit in 2006 found that the older surfaces hadn’t been properly maintained. Now in 2011, I can honestly say I’ve never seen a synthetic pitch in a worse condition than the red ash parks I used to play on. If they are properly maintained then there should be no reason for youth footballers to experience the pain and lack of playability of the ash park. It makes me want to invest in a new pair of football boots and join an adult team.

 

The Toryglen facility is only a few years old and has set a precedent for what we should be aiming for in football facilities. With a price tag of £14.5 million, Toryglen offers a synthetic full size indoor football pitch, 3 outdoor synthetic grass pitches, an outdoor full size grass pitch, a strength and conditioning zone, a players lounge/café area, 13 7-aside pitches, a briefing room with video analysis and changing rooms with showers and toilets,. Is it any wonder I was rubbing my scars and uttering “Luxury”?

 

There are other fantastic facilities that I wish I could have played on. Home to the Harmony Row Youth Club is Alex Ferguson Park, which is as good a synthetic surface as you’ll find in Glasgow. Out in Bellshill, The Sir Matt Busby Complex is an excellent facility as is the East End Healthy Living Centre in Glasgow. There are decent parks at Ibrox, Cardonald and Stepford too. You don’t need to travel too far to find a good synthetic park.

 

So what about grass surfaces? Well the 2006 audit found that 74% of natural grass football pitches were unsatisfactory, suffering from poor drainage, poor construction and a lack of maintenance. Having been to see games at the St James’ Playing Fields in Paisley, where some of the pitches have hills and slopes in them, and at the Netherpollock pitches in Pollok Park, where surfaces are regularly waterlogged, I reckon there is a lot of room for improvement when it comes to grass. I had the luck of playing a few times on grass parks back in the day and although the parks were a country mile better than the red ash pitches, in hindsight they could lack playability too. One game I played in on a grass park had broken bottles on it and another had more than one dog dropping (not even drunks and dogs would play on ash pitches). I also remember a team-mate breaking his ankle by sliding in the mud on a waterlogged grass park.

 

There is no denying that youth facilities have improved 100% in the last 10-15 years. Gone are the days when you jink past a full back only to find the ball half submerged in the pitch 9 yards behind you, or when your lob over the keeper lands dead with a splash 2 yards short of the goal line. These things don’t happen anywhere as much anymore. Steps have been made in the right direction and if we want to produce the very best players they have to play on the very best surfaces. That’s the way football is these days. The progress has been very pleasing to watch.

 

Originally published by Youth Football Scotland

 

 

An early start and drizzly rain didn’t stop an impressive turnout at the Sir Matt Busby Complex in Bellshill for the Mossend FC organised charity seven-a-side competition ‘Kids, doing it for kids‘. Around 125 children, all from the 2001 age group, took part in the festival, which was sponsored by David Wilson Homes, with the ambition to raise at least £500 for the Yorkhill Hospital for Sick Children.
Kids Doing It For Kids
Before the kick-off, the event’s organiser – Mossend FC Secretary Billy McQueen, said, “Why are we doing this? Well, raising money for charity is a first for us. We are normally working very hard at raising funds for our own team. However, recently one of the boys in our 2002 squad was diagnosed with leukaemia. Thankfully he is now in remission. He did spend a lot of time at Yorkhill, where he received his treatment.”

He continued, “Our League, The Lanarkshire Football Development League have chosen Yorkhill as their charity of the year. So with both, we felt that we would like to do something to help and we came up with a football day, doing what we love and giving Yorkhill the benefit of it. We are calling it Kids, doing it for the Kids.”

Blantyre Boys Club, Calderbraes FC, EKFC, Mill United, Milton Rovers and of course Mossend FC took part and all the teams donated £35 per team to the charity. Each side entered two teams who played a half each in every match. Normally every participant would get a small memento of the day to take away with them, but all the teams and kids that took part on the day agreed to go without the memento to allow the event to raise as much as possible for Yorkhill.

One team, Calderbraes FC, even agreed to give a donation for every goal they scored. Billy said, “We need to make sure that they score a barrow load!”.
Kids Doing It For Kids
As for the action itself, the football was very good. The kids displayed a range of slick passing, communication and tactical awareness that is way beyond their years.
Mill United’s Jack Dunsmore caught the eye with excellent close control as did Blantyre’s entire squad. Mill United’s goalkeeper Robbie Hemfrey spent most of the morning making world-class saves and Mosspark keeper Caleb McDowell made an eye catching stop when he touched a fierce drive onto the crossbar.

Milton Rovers’ girls Emma Fleming and Jemma Marriott stood out with competitive tackling when games got feisty and EK’s impressive dribbling winger scored what was possibly the goal of the day.

The free-scoring Calderbraes strikers, who hit the back of the net AND the wallets of the Calderbraes staff on numerous occasions, were also a joy to watch and contributed to what was a generally high-scoring day across all the games.

The first round of matches saw EKFC take on Mill United and from the whistle EK were on the attack, leading to some excellent saves from Hemfrey.
EK eventually took the lead with a long distance screamer and it needed to be to beat the keeper who was playing a blinder. Shortly after, Mill United equalized after a defensive error before EK made it went ahead again with a drive from close range. EK struck again but then Mill United turned on the style and scored three quick goals, with Jack Dunsmore scoring a hat trick. EK scored again at the death.

Blantyre BC v Mossend FC ended in favour of Blantyre despite some excellent saves by Mossend keeper Caleb McDowell. In their next game, against Milton Rovers, Blantyre racked up another impressive display, through some well organised and ruthless football.

Calderbraes FC then played Mossend FC and the hosts took an early lead through an unconventional chested goal from a deep corner kick. Shortly after, they scored again after a goalmouth scramble. The early lead gave Mossend the drive to dominate the early stages and before long they scored again after a well placed shot into the bottom corner of Calderbraes net. A spirited Calderbraes fight back was then forthcoming, nearly producing an equalizer.
Kids Doing It For Kids
In the final round of games, Mill United took on Mossend FC and again Mossend took the lead with a great solo effort – a run from the halfway line before the youngster picked his spot in the bottom corner. Goals at both ends followed, with neither team able to see off the other in a six goal thriller, which in the end was a fair result.
Throughout the tournament, parents, coaches and even passers-by out walking their dogs gave generous donations time and time again further to the entry fee they had already paid to get in. Their generosity was only matched by their support as they cheered the teams on from start to finish.

Organiser Billy McQueen said, “The event has been great, everything has run smoothly and the football has been excellent. We were aiming for £500 but it looks like we’re closer to £600 now.”

In the end, the event raised over £800 for Yorkhill and was a marvellous success. Football is more than just a game because it stirs so much emotion and pride within people; it is capable of achieving so much. Following the final games, each of the teams posed side by side for photographs and there was a real sense of unity in achievement within the youngsters. They had put on a great tournament, raised a lot of money for Yorkhill and earned the well deserve applause from the fans. So when the ‘Kids, doing it for kids’ tournament came to an end, who were the overall winners? The answer to that is kids.

 

Originally written HERE