Fitzy: No change at youth academy
Saints boss allays fears over Project Brave
Tony Fitzpatrick insists St Mirren’s youth set-up will not be affected by the SFA’s Project Brave blueprint.
It was reported over the weekend that the Paisley side will not be involved at the Elite level of the programme – despite having four academy graduates among the 22 players starting for Scotland at full and under-21 level over the weekend.
Instead, St Mirren will head up the second tier of the new youth system, titled Performance Progressive. They are set to be joined by Falkirk, and top flight outfits Partick Thistle, Ross County, Dundee and St Johnstone at that level.
The proposal was greeted with outcry from some sections of support, however, Fitzpatrick has moved to ease fears that it could have a negative affect on the Buddies’ current set-up.
Fitzpatrick said: “St Mirren have proven time and time again that they produce talent and we are proud of that fact. The fact that we are not included among the Elite level clubs doesn’t change that. The Academy will continue to work how it does currently. This doesn’t result in a cut in funding or anything like that. The easiest way to describe it is that simply, nothing will change.
“For us to go to elite level, we would have had to employ an extra five members of staff, which is a big outlay for any Championship club.
“What we will do is strive for the Elite level in the years to come. But first, if we are being realistic, we would have to establish ourselves as a top flight side after gaining promotion. We are all for trying to hit the elite level mark – we are already proving we are among the best sides at developing players as it is.
“Just look at the Scotland sides, at all levels, over the past week. You had Academy graduates Kenny McLean and John McGinn in the first team. Lewis Morgan, Kyle Magennis and Stevie Mallan were all in the 21s, and then you have Ben Cameron and Ethan Erharon in the younger sides.”
The proposed shake-up of youth football has caused some friction between clubs and the SFA due to the costs involved in meeting the new standards and criteria needed to be recognised at each level.
A number of clubs outside the top flight have been unable to meet the fees required ahead of the plan getting under way, which is scheduled to be January.
However, Fitzpatrick insists he understands the reasons behind the move towards the new system – but is adamant that it won’t change the hard work being done at St Mirren’s own academy.
He added: “We continue to play at a good level, just below the Elite level, and that it is something we are happy about. We feel as a club that we have an elite academy and nothing like this is going to deter the hard work done by Allan McManus and his staff.
“As a club we have got to look at the big picture. First and foremost we want to be playing at the highest level. We believe that our academy is a success story in itself, with a number of our players playing across a number of age groups and the first team.
“It is important to stress that we will continue to strive for the very best.”