Jan 25 2012 by Hugh Keevins
Mark Wotte large image

Mark Wotte with a team of SFA coaches

SFA performance director Mark Wotte has a 2020 vision of the future.

Within the next eight years he aims to produce a handful of players for the national team to justify the £20million the governing body are putting into the Regional Performance School scheme he will mastermind.

But the Dutchman last night put forward other measures he wants the Old Firm and Scottish government to implement to raise the standard of young players produced by this country.

His recommendations include:

● The Old Firm giving five promising youngsters to a First Division club so they can play regular first-team football.

● Celtic and Rangers fielding a Colts side in the lower leagues.

● An Under-20 league formed to bridge the gap between youth football and first team.

● Ending the exodus of young players down south while finding ways to stop careers being killed by lack of first-team football.

● An education programme to include lifestyle sessions which end the booze culture that has derailed promising careers.

● Parliament funding the building of 700 all-weather pitches in Scotland.

Wotte wouldn’t have been headhunted by the SFA if there wasn’t a lack of direction in Scottish football’s forward planning.

And he didn’t pretend otherwise when launching the performance schools initiative at Hampden yesterday. Wotte said: “A generation of players has been lost in Scotland.

“The results of the national team over the last decade, and of Scottish clubs in Europe in recent years, have acted as a wake-up call for the game here.

“There needs to be a new philosophy. The clubs are making an effort while working within their budgets.

“But no first-team football kills the careers of young players because they’re not getting a game at the most vital stage of their development.

“How many starts did John Fleck get at Rangers this season before he joined Blackpool?”

Wotte’s solution to the brain drain and the careers terminated before they’ve had time to flourish is based on personal experience.

He said: “I did it at Holland in a club context. Now the SFA have started a programme unlike anything I’ve seen anywhere. But we’re not competing with the clubs, we want to act in conjunction with them. I’d like to see more co-operation between the ruling bodies as well.

“The likes of Celtic and Rangers being allowed to put teams of youngsters in lower leagues would be helpful.

“The same two clubs giving five of their most promising talents to a First Division team would also help with development.”

Wotte had his eyes opened by what he found when he took over his new job.

He said: “The SFA didn’t have one youth scout when I arrived. Now we’ll have seven qualified coaches assigned to performance schools across Scotland.

“By 2020 I want to see more young Scots playing in the SPL and four of five graduates from our performance school in the national team. In the meantime we need to improve facilities so the young never need to have a coaching session cancelled because of the elements.

“In Holland there are 3000 3G pitches. In Scotland there are 300. I want to see the day when we have 1000. And I’d switch youth football to summer.”

The Dutch are always held up as the example of all that’s to be admired about cultivating young players but Wotte reckons the SFA’s new scheme can redress the balance in our favour one day.

He said: “The only difference between a Dutch and Scottish kid is the way they’re coached.

“But there are other issues. A youngster might lose his appetite for the game or develop a liking for a good drink.

“Our performance schools will take boys for four years and influence their behaviour on and off the park.

“We’re creating all-round footballers and will train their brains so they’re clever. Scotland needs more players like James Forrest and Barry Bannan.

“I will see my end product in 2020.”

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