As you may be aware our youth academy has been striving to reach the highest level possible with regards to our placement within the new Scottish Football Association Project Brave initiative.
There are four tiers to the programme:
- Elite (Eight places)
- Performance Progressive (Eight Places)
- Advanced Youth
At a recent panel meeting we were given the news that we had not achieved the second tier, which was our target, but will be placed within the third tier.
Everyone at the club has spent a considerable amount of time and effort over the past year addressing all of the needs of the academy and outlining key plans for our submission to attain the Performance Progressive level.
On entry to our panel meeting on Friday 10 November, attended by both head of youth Derek Anderson and myself, we were met with the opening remark:
“Due to your MPO* rating you are in 17th place. Therefore, you can’t access either of the top two tiers of the programme; Therefore this meeting will determine your entry to Performance Level”
*Measurable Performance Outcomes – the number of players you have produced who have gone on to play senior football or achieved a number of other goals, such as winning international honours.
I have to admit that both Derek and I were flabbergasted and highly frustrated by this statement as we hadn’t been informed of the MPO league table prior to the meeting and had been working tirelessly towards assessment at the second-tier level.
The Scottish FA system, therefore, has punished our academy for the fact it is only five years old and doesn’t have historical MPOs beyond its inception.
We were still given the platform to put forward our argument and we focused on our two most significant areas of achievement over the past three years, of which we can be very proud:
- We have been informed we are one of only two clubs to have achieved Investors in Young People (IIYP) GOLD standard. The other being Celtic.
- Evidence of our success could be seen in the recent Renfrewshire derby, when seven members of our matchday squad were youth development graduates. We are seeing great progress!
- When we missed the cut last time due to MPOs, we maintained our development in line with the silver level even though we only received bronze-level funding, showing a fantastic commitment from our board.
- Whilst scores and outcomes are not recorded at academy level below Under-17s, we compete very well against all academies at every level, both in terms of results and performances.
- We play against elite academies on a regular basis and get asked back regularly due to the standard of opposition we provide.
To conclude, I would like to focus on the positives. We have been informed by the SFA that there still may be an entry to level two in June 2018 if one of the clubs that gained entry falters against the strict criteria.
However, on a very, very positive note our games programme will still be greatly enhanced with us playing against a higher standard of club on a regular basis.
Having more challenging matches every weekend was high on our agenda and this has been achieved as we will play second tier, Performance Progressive clubs three times per season across all age groups.
We will also continue to play against the elite academies on a regular basis in midweek, as we have done for a number of years.
I have already approached SFA chief executive Stewart Regan to speak with him about the overall outcome, and Derek and I meet with him on Friday.
In the meantime, we will continue to support everyone associated with the club as we continue to aspire and work towards our long-term club strategy of developing and rearing our own young players.
Thanks for your continued support. If any academy players or their parents have any individual questions then both Derek and myself will be happy to answer them.