Investment in elite youth key to success - Mark Wotte

The SFA's first performance director believes investment in youth football is crucial for the game to prosper in Scotland.

"If you don't invest in your youth you will have nothing in the end," warned Mark Wotte, who began his role in June.

"We want to invest in our elite players; otherwise we are lost.

"I think the infrastructure can be better, programmes can be more intense and there should be better co-operation between clubs and academies."

Speaking at Hampden on Monday, Wotte said the game was punching below its weight and that money spent on improving football would deliver long-term benefits.

Central to raising standards are the seven performance schools, which are about to be launched.

"I have seen all levels," the Dutchman said. "I have been to the national team, the Scottish Premier League, the Scottish Football Leagues, the youth leagues and national youth teams.

"I think in general, we are under-achieving. To be honest, we are not good enough and I think we can do a much better job at every level.

"But it is a big task for us Scottish football people to improve and make sure that in a couple of years we will do better.

"I think the infrastructure can be better, I think programmes can be more intense and there should be better cooperation between clubs and academies.

"In schools, the government has to do more for general health purposes. Physical education should be much more important in primary school."

Celtic winger James Forrest
Forrest caught Wotte's eye with his recent performance against Kilmarnock

Wotte arrived in Scotland in June, his role the result of Henry McLeish's first batch of recommendations for improving the state of Scotland's national sport.

He was a former technical director at Feyenoord and had extensive managerial experience in Europe and the Middle East.

The performance schools, which will take talented 12-16 year-olds, is based on the notion that, to produce world-class athletes, 10,000 hours of practise must be invested from the age of 10-20 or from 12 to 22.

The SFA is in the process of appointing seven coaches to run the schools.

Wotte, who described Scottish clubs' poor showing this season in European competition as a "reality check", points out that other small countries, such as Belgium and Slovenia, spend twice as many hours with their best national youth players.

And to rectify that, he plans to put programmes in place for the best 15-19 year old players in Scotland.

"We are trying to create a better programme for the national youth players to train them every week at the national training centre, to train the best with the best," he said.

"We have started communication with the clubs and the academies and I have started communication within the SFA to intensify the programme for the national youth teams to create national training centres.

"To have your home-grown players in your first-team is very good for the clubs, because it is cheaper. You don't have to pay a fee to bring foreign players, you don't have to pay high wages.

"I saw Kilmarnock versus Celtic with only five Scottish players on the pitch from 22. That makes me very sad, but the best player on the pitch was a 20-year-old Scottish player: James Forrest.

"There are good young Scottish players but we should give them more chance to play first-team football."

Wotte praised the coaches of Kilmarnock and St Mirren [Kenny Shiels and Danny Lennon, respectively] for their efforts to play good football this season and went on to point out that the current financial climate made it more important for clubs to produce their own players.

And he added: "The best thing I have seen in Scotland is the mentality and the desire to challenge but against more skilful teams it is not enough.

"Playing 4-4-2 with the long ball and picking up the second ball - trial and error football - is not good enough any more.

"I am sure that in 2020, six or seven players in the national team will have a performance school history. There is no doubt in my mind.

"We just have to be patient and sometimes that is difficult in football because we want to be better tomorrow."