Scottish clubs urged to keep faith with youth by former St Mirren academy boss

St Mirren winger Lewis Morgan with his Celtic top
Lewis Morgan has secured a transfer from St Mirren to Celtic

The academy boss who helped St Mirren bank more than £1m in transfer fees has urged Scottish clubs to keep faith with youth development.

Falkirk have decided to scrap their youth set-up in order to plough funds into their first team in an effort to win promotion to the top flight.

"I always think there's a lot of benefits having your own academy," said David Longwell.

"You just have to see the number of players who came through at St Mirren."

Longwell, who now works in the US heading up New York Red Bull's youth academy, helped shape the careers of John McGinn, now with Hibernian, Kenny McLean, who moved on to Aberdeen, Stevie Mallan, presently with Barnsley, Kyle McAllister, now with Derby County, and Lewis Morgan, back on loan at St Mirren Park after being sold to Celtic in January.

The Scottish Championship leaders will receive a further fee for McGinn, thanks to a 33% sell-on clause, should the Scotland midfielder leave Easter Road.

But the Buddies, along with top-flight clubs Dundee, Partick Thistle, Ross County and St Johnstone, have missed out on elite status as part of the Scottish Football Association's new Project Brave system.

David Longwell coaches from the sidelines with St Mirren
David Longwell helped Gary Teale while he was caretaker manager of St Mirren

The top banding requires clubs to hire six full-time academy staff, but Longwell says Saints' example proves massive sums are not needed to generate talent.

"If the SFA genuinely think Project Brave will produce more players and make the national side stronger then great," Longwell said.

"There's still a lot of talented players in Scotland, so hopefully it works.

"But, as far as I'm concerned, it's all about opportunity. It's about giving players the chance to play at first-team level.

"We didn't have a massive budget at St Mirren, or a big team of coaches. It came down to coaching and doing things correctly.

"So, even if clubs haven't made it into the elite banding, they can still bring players through.

"As long as they make sure there is a pathway to the first team, missing out on the elite status doesn't have to be the end of the world."

Hibernian midfielder John McGinn
St Mirren will profit should their former midfielder, John McGinn, be sold by Hibs

Falkirk took their decision in a bid to end eight years in Scotland's second tier.

"Falkirk have always had a very good reputation, so I was a bit surprised by their news," said Longwell.

"Falkirk have also produced a lot of players down the years, but they've obviously now got to make a decision on what is right for their club. Time will tell if it's the right decision."

Longwell helped winger Morgan bounce back after being released by Rangers aged 16 and win a £300,000 move to Celtic.

"The sum raised from the academy will be more than £1m now - and it will go up again if John McGinn moves," he added.

"But, for me, it wasn't about the money really. It was about the number of boys who came through and are still playing professional football.

"I take as much satisfaction from the likes of Thomas Reilly playing at Elgin as I do from a Lewis Morgan."

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