Mark McDonald, MSP for Aberdeen Donside today addressed the Scottish Parliament with a speech on Youth Football's Contribution to Men's and Women's Football. See what Mark had to say below and watch the speech in full:
I stand as someone who has been a youth football player and a youth football coach, having coached the under-13s team at Dyce Boys Club before I was elected. Dyce Boys Club and Albion Boys Club, which are the two youth clubs in Aberdeen that tend to compete for honours, alongside Lewis United Youth, are based in my constituency. Lewis United Youth is an interesting club because it was established as a result of players being released from the Aberdeen FC under-12 development squad, and it has since grown to become a much larger club, with teams at all age groups.
Dyce was the club that I coached at. Its past players include Graeme Shinnie, who lifted the Scottish cup for Inverness Caledonian Thistle at the weekend; his brother, Andrew, who plays for Birmingham City; the recently retired Aberdeen captain, Russell Anderson; and Stuart Armstrong, who recently signed for Celtic from Dundee United. Many youth clubs can point to players who are plying their trade professionally as being players who have come through their system. Many can also attest to the ones who got away.
The point about the expectations of young people is prescient. When my brother played youth football—he was a contemporary of Shaun Maloney, who played for one of his competitor clubs—he played alongside players in the Aberdeen squad that went to the Jack Wood tournament in Wales who were training with professional clubs because, at that time, those clubs did not have their own age-group-specific teams per se but would instead take players who were attached to other clubs to train with them and then decide who they would sign up at a later stage. Now, clubs have development squads at all age groups, consisting of a large number of boys. Chic Brodie makes the point that, at the point at which they sign for the clubs, many of those youngsters do not realise just how few people can make it in the game. Perhaps we need to do more to manage the expectation levels of the players and their parents.
There is a question about how we develop young players. I am passionate about summer football. When I coached at youth level, one of the most frustrating things was trying to encourage passing football and the skills that are taught in the gym hall or the training area when the youngsters were out on the pitch in some of the weather conditions that we experience in Scotland in January and February. At those times, it becomes much more difficult for young players, in particular, to develop and hone their skills, and they end up developing kick-and-rush football techniques because, in driving rain and gale-force winds, that is all that is possible.
How professional clubs interact with what we call feeder clubs or the established youth clubs when young players are released needs to be looked at, so that those players are not left to find a club at a time when they will be upset that they are no longer going to continue in the system of a professional club.
My final point is the issue of the loss of municipal pitches, which we need to look at very carefully. In my constituency, the Aberdeen Lads Club pitches are about to be developed on. That will result in the loss of a number of grass pitches, which are to be replaced by one 3G pitch not within that community but elsewhere in the city, in the community of Northfield, which is set to benefit.
Although 3G pitches can be used more than grass pitches because of the quality of the surface, we need to look very carefully at how municipal pitches and their upkeep are being protected. We need to ensure that, when our young, developing players play on those pitches, they are able to play the game in the way that we would expect it to be played and can develop their skills from there.
See more at: www.scottish.parliament.uk/parliamentarybusiness/report.aspx?r=9987&i=91688&c=1834129#sthash.V4Oug8V5.dpuf