Neil MACKINTOSH, the SFA’s performance development manager, has insisted the good work going on behind the scenes in Scottish football shouldn’t be ignored simply because the national side didn’t qualify for the European Championships, writes DAVID HARDIE.
Speaking as 47 boys and girls were welcomed as the latest intake of the SFA’s performance school programme at Oriam, the new National Performance Centre, Mackintosh believes the kids coming through that system are becoming better players – and that there’s more of them. Mackintosh saw the first group of pupils, including Hearts’ Aaron Reid, graduate earlier this year, 15 of them having gone on to secure professional contracts and has now urged the newcomers to make Oriam at Riccarton their home “because all the best players in Scotland will be coming here.”
Admitting it was rare to hear anyone say things are improving in Scottish football, Mackintosh, who heard Hibs star John McGinn tell the youngsters of his journey to Gordon Strachan’s squad, urged everyone to scratch below the surface.
He said: “What is going right? The amount of work being put in that isn’t seen. If the first team, the national team, aren’t doing well, everything is rubbish. And, if they are doing well, everything is great. That’s not reality. I look at what clubs are doing at youth level, what Scot Gemmill and the guys are doing with the national youth teams. I look at that and see that, up to 17s and 18s we do very well in Europe. The evidence is there. But because the national teams didn’t quality, everything is bad.”
Pointing out that the performance programme had been “tweaked and polished” over the past four years, Mackintosh added: “What we’re doing now is much better than in the first year. And the kids coming through now are better – and there are more of them.”