'Criticism premature' of Scottish youth football plan, says Roy MacGregor

Ross County chairman Roy MacGregor and Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers
Roy MacGregor (left) is part of the SFA working group into youth football

Ross County chairman Roy MacGregor is confident that a new blueprint for the future of Scotland's youth football will appease any doubters.

Project Brave is the product of a Scottish FA working party.

And some clubs are unhappy at the suggestion that only eight would be given elite academy status.

"I am optimistic that solutions will be found for some aspects," said group member MacGregor, who stressed that work continues on the blueprint.

"Any criticism of it is a bit premature as there's a bit of mileage to go before it is finalised.

"A lot of good work has gone into it, there was a lot of good people involved and most of it I agree with."

Following its examination, Project Brave suggests:

  • Reducing the current number of 29 academies and 2,300 players.
  • Re-introducing a reserve league, with a minimum and maximum number of overage players in each team, to replace the current Under-20 Development League.
  • Switching academy football up to under-16 level to the summer, with the shorter Futsal game adopted in the winter.
  • Increasing the use of development loans to lower league clubs for players up to 21 years.
Motherwell's Robbie Leitch celebrates against Hearts
Motherwell beat Hearts in last season's Scottish Youth Cup final

Project Brave was initiated in April by Brian McClair, who left his role as SFA performance director three months later and is yet to be replaced, in a bid to improve the quality of players available to the national squad.

The proposals have already been sent back to the group for further examination by Scottish Premiership clubs, while Championship representatives are due to have their own discussions this week.

However, questions over funding for club academies have left some clubs wanting further examination.

"It has been criteria-based," said MacGregor about current rules governing funding of academies.

"But the focus should be performance-based to reward success."

The SFA says it will reveal further details once the proposal has reached the stage of being approved by its board.

Although there is no specific timescale for its publication, a shortlist has been drawn up for the appointment of a new performance director and that process is nearing a conclusion.

Responding to the report, Gary Naysmith, the former Scotland left-back who is now East Fife manager, echoed the thoughts of other managers who have told BBC Scotland that they would welcome a change to second-string arrangements.

"I don't think the Under-20 Development League works," he said. "I've watched them and I don't think it's competitive enough.

"Thinking back to reserve games I've played, it was brilliant.

"You would have players who were out of favour, players who were coming back from injury and that progressed you on.

"The under-20s is false. They are all trying to play out from the back, the goalie is passing it to a player on the edge of the area, but that doesn't prepare them for when they come to a team like mine on loan - it's like they are caught in the headlights."

Top Stories