Ayr United Football Club and Ayr United Football Academy are delighted to confirm that the club and Academy are working jointly towards full time football at Somerset Park. With the Scottish Football Association Club Academy Scotland audit due this month, the Academy has been working hard to gain Silver Status which would put us amongst the elite academies in Scotland. Part of that process involves proving to the SFA that the club and Academy can sustain full time football.
Explained Cub Chairman, Lachlan Cameron, “Recently I spoke in the club newsletter about the pride I have in what the Academy has achieved. This is another step along the way. What is even more pleasing is that we don’t need outside finance to achieve it. Through restructuring and making better use of the grants that are available to the Academy it means we are able to put firm foundations down for the future of the club. The aim is to make the club even more attractive to players to come here and play. It also hits my intention of living within our means, which should send a clear message out to the rest of Scottish football that having a youth policy is not only desirable, but essential for clubs to survive. I am very proud that we have one of the best examples and the most stable of community academies in the country.”
This was a view that chimed with Academy chair, Ian Welsh. “We are delighted to have the club backing us to this extent. Make no mistake about it this a serious development which has been long in the thinking. Whilst it may seem obvious that a club who may benefit from the development of a successful youth strategy would back it, we realise that unless we can provide quality young players for the manager, supporters can get disillusioned with the set up. This means we support the manager, the Chairman of the club supports the Academy and collectively we can make real, sustained progress on the park.”
The project will see a core number of players – 12 have put pen to paper thus far – becoming full-time with the Club.
Captain Scott McLaughlin is among those who will step up their involvement at Somerset Park as well as key first team players like Michael Donald, Nicky Devlin, Brian Gilmour, Alan Forrest and Paul Slane. Joining them will be a crop of United’s star youngsters and push the club towards full-time football while keeping costs in check.
Academy Head of Youth, David White, explained: “The SFA has different statuses within its Club Academy Programme, and each Academy’s standards are measured to determine where it sits in the structure. We are striving to reach the Elite grade, but in order to do that we must provide our young players with a pathway to full-time football. Our present setup obviously doesn’t make that possible, so I have worked with Academy staff to look at ways in which we could go about it. Both Mark Roberts and Lachlan Cameron have been fantastic in buying into this because they see the benefits for the whole Club – not just the youngsters. The Chairman has added a personal investment to the Academy funding and full credit to him because he sees the long term legacy this could have.”
Training will be taken every day by Roberts and White, with sessions expanded to mirror that of professional full-time clubs. Davie added: “We’ll be able to do proper recovery sessions after games, match analysis and work on things like nutrition and sports science. None of that is really possible within the current part-time setup where the guys just come in on a Tuesday and Thursday night. So many of our young boys are crying out for this because all they want to do is train and play football. It’s not about money for them, they just want to be in and around the club every day learning from the senior pros and this will give them the perfect chance to do that.”
The full-time setup will be operational within days, with the squad training six sessions per week.
First team boss, Roberts, confirmed: “It’s a great move for both the Academy and ourselves. What this represents is an important first step towards full-time football and it means we can spend more time working on the things we want to during the week. The players taking part in this will be fitter, stronger and our youngsters in particular will gain more game knowledge. I know from my time as a young player, the most you learn is at the ages of 16, 17 and 18 so this will be a massive thing for the young boys and over the next couple of years we’ll really start to see the benefits.”
Restructuring of the Club Academy Scotland set up means that Ayr United Football Academy will either play in a structure below where they are now or in amongst the elite clubs. This development means that the Academy are able now to close off one of the outstanding tasks to achieve the higher status. Stringent rules apply here so the Academy are working very hard to reward the volunteers who put in countless hours for the Academy in coaching sessions with competition to stretch, challenge and improve the quality of opportunities for our young players.