Chil­dren of the revo­lu­tion al­ready here for Malky EX­CLU­SIVE

The fu­ture of Scot­tish foot­ball is now for Mackay as kids come good in Pre­mier­ship


W ED­WARDS Dem­ing may be best known, in the board­rooms of multi­na­tional cor­po­ra­tions across the world at least, for rev­o­lu­tion­is­ing the Ja­panese car in­dus­try fol­low­ing the Sec­ond World War.

Could the wis­dom of the late Amer­i­can en­gi­neer, though, soon be en­sur­ing a steady stream of ex­cep­tional young Scot­tish foot­ballers roll off a pro­duc­tion line of tal­ent here?

Malky Mackay, for one, is hop­ing so.

It is com­ing up for two years since Mackay was ap­pointed SFA per­for­mance di­rec­tor. He hasn’t been idle in that time. The youth set-up in this coun­try bears lit­tle re­sem­blance to the one he in­her­ited due to the ex­ten­sive ap­point­ments, changes and rec­om­men­da­tions he has made.

One of his in­no­va­tions has been to ap­ply what is called the Dem­ing Cy­cle or Wheel – a four-step man­age­ment method de­vised by the in­dus­trial in­no­va­tor and used in busi­ness to this day.

Plan. Do. Check. Act. It is hardly rocket science. Nev­er­the­less, Mackay is con­fi­dent it will help ev­ery area he over­sees – in­clud­ing anal­y­sis, tal­ent iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, the acad­e­mies, coach ed­u­ca­tion, the na­tional teams, sports science and medicine and the per­for­mance schools – flour­ish.

“It’s a stan­dard­i­s­a­tion model,” he said as he sat in one of the Sky­boxes at Ham­p­den and talked about his ten­ure to date and aspirations go­ing for­ward ear­lier this week. “Ef­fec­tively, any­thing that you haven’t done so well you change for the next time so there is con­stant im­prove­ment.”

Mackay is more op­ti­mistic than ever be­fore that the for­tunes of our na­tional team and health of the game in this coun­try can be re­vived in fu­ture as a re­sult of that as well as myr­iad other de­vel­op­ments that he has been in­volved in and ini­tia­tives he is work­ing on.

And he can al­ready see tan­gi­ble signs of progress as things are.

“This isn’t away in the dis­tance any more, it is here,” he said. “For the first time ever, eight 16-year-olds made their de­buts in the Scot­tish league last sea­son. That has never hap­pened be­fore.

“The play­ers com­ing out of the per­for­mance schools are tech­ni­cally bet­ter be­cause they are get­ting twice as much foot­ball as they did.

“They went in at 12 and are the first group to grad­u­ate. There are mas­sive dif­fer­ences.

“In the last 18 months, be­tween 16s and 21s, we have beaten Eng­land, the Nether­lands three times,

Play­ers in per­for­mance schools are get­ting twice as much foot­ball

Spain, France, Ger­many and Brazil.”

Mackay feels the suc­cess of English youth teams – their un­der-17 and un­der-20 sides both won their re­spec­tive World Cup while their un­der19 side won the Euro­pean Cham­pi­onship – have high­lighted the long-term ben­e­fits of what is now be­ing ad­vo­cated in Scot­land.

“In the Elite Player Per­for­mance Pro­gramme in Eng­land, play­ers get 17 hours’ con­tact time with the ball a week,” he said. “For us to get to that it has to be us work­ing with the boys at the per­for­mance schools dur­ing the day and the clubs at night.

“It has to be for us to get to that. If we do that on a reg­u­lar ba­sis over a pe­riod of time kids are go­ing to be bet­ter foot­ballers. Oth­er­wise, we have just got what we had for the last 20 years.

“Again, we are al­ready start­ing to see a dif­fer­ence. For ex­am­ple, the 17-yearolds, who have been through four years at the per­for­mance school and have now had a year and a half at pro­fes­sional level, went over to Spain and had more pos­ses­sion of the ball than Spain [in a friendly in Marbella in Fe­bru­ary they won 2-1].”

And what of, whis­per it, Club Academy Scot­land? They are three words which send many in­volved in youth foot­ball in Scot­land into a fit. Even when the flawed sys­tem was changed two years ago peo­ple were still un­happy.

The de­ci­sion by Falkirk and Liv­ingston to close their acad­e­mies for fi­nan­cial rea­sons has gen­er­ated ad­verse pub­lic­ity and been widely viewed as be­ing detri­men­tal for the fu­ture of the game in this coun­try.

Af­ter all, the likes of Gra­ham Dor­rans, Leigh Grif­fiths and Robert Sn­odrass came through at Liv­ingston while Scott Ar­field, Jay Ful­ton and Stephen Kings­ley emerged at Falkirk.

Mackay, though, de­fends the level of back­ing clubs they re­ceive from the SFA.

“Ev­ery­one has their choice to make as to what they do with their money, ev­ery­one,” he said. “If that’s the model that suits them, fine.

“I am con­cerned with clubs that are breed­ing Scot­tish foot­ballers, that’s my job. If a club doesn’t want to go down that route that’s fine. What they are do­ing is the right thing for their club. We have to do what’s right for play­ers I think can be­come Scot­land play­ers.

“If peo­ple look closely at it they will know it has noth­ing to do with a re­duc­tion in fund­ing from us. Clubs were of­fered the same money for the next three years, even clubs that were go­ing to step away from it. The rug wasn’t pulled away. There was a para­chute for clubs who wanted to adapt.

“If you don’t want to make one step dif­fer­ent from where you were you have still got the same money. If you want to do some­thing else it is up to your­self.”

The state of the sport in

this coun­try will, for a large num­ber of fans, al­ways be de­ter­mined by how Scot­land per­form. Win, and the out­look is rosy. Lose, and we are in a state of dis­ar­ray.

Mackay is de­ter­mined to en­sure the kids who are tipped for great things as full-time pro­fes­sion­als at top clubs ful­fil their po­ten­tial in­stead, as was very much the case in the past, of strug­gling be­ing lost. Ul­ti­mately, the na­tional team will ben­e­fit.

The per­for­mance di­rec­tor is striv­ing to en­sure there is greater uni­for­mity in how each side, from the un­der­16s to the full side, op­er­ates to help make the tran­si­tion be­tween teams smoother.

“The con­veyer belt we are hop­ing to pro­duce will be helped by a stan­dard­ised way of work­ing,” said Mackay. “Ev­ery team will work within a frame­work – how we do meet­ings, how anal­y­sis is done, had game plans look, how set pieces look.

“The man­ager puts his own spin on things within the frame­work. He de­cides on the tac­tics for the team they are go­ing to play against. But they sit within a frame­work. So when a kid moves to next age-group he is see­ing the same thing. They are used to the way things are done.

“In Jan­uary or Fe­bru­ary next year we are go­ing to be pro­duc­ing a na­tional plan that maps out how the youth teams will play. It has started al­ready. It is bleed­ing into ev­ery­thing we are do­ing. We have a be­lief in how we want the youth teams to play.

“At un­der-21 level, where we have had some great results re­cently, the main aim is to get play­ers to the first team. In the last cam­paign John McGinn and Kieran Tier­ney stepped up.

“This cam­paign we have had Oli McBurnie, Scott McKenna and Lewis Mor­gan, half­way through the cam­paign, who went to be in­volved with the full team. That is our job. Our job is to give Alex as many play­ers as we can.”

The state of the sport in this coun­try will, for a large num­ber of fans, al­ways be de­ter­mined by how Scot­land per­form. Win, and the out­look is rosy. Lose, and we are in a state of dis­ar­ray.

Malky Mackay says U21 level is solely fo­cused on pro­duc­ing first-team stars

Malky Mackay is per­for­mance di­rec­tor for the SFA and is ded­i­cated to de­vel­op­ing youth

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