Mark Wotte believes the formation of seven Regional Performance Schools will symbolise the first green shoots of recovery for Scottish football.
The Scottish FA’s performance director gave his first in-depth interview to www.scottishfa.co.uk and having observed matches from senior international level to grassroots, believes the nation must have a more focused and co-ordinated approach to youth development.
Fundamental to his performance strategy is the appointment of seven regional performance coaches to work out of appointed schools that will house the most talented kids in the region, providing expert, tailored coaching before and after the curriculum.
“We will start with seven performance schools and invest in our elite kids: our 12 to 15 year olds,” he said. “I believe this is the most important part of what we are aiming to do. These academies are a huge step in the right direction. I want to be in the position where we see these academies creating the Scotland stars of tomorrow and I am confident that this will happen.
“In fact, by 2020, I expect our senior A squad to have six or seven players who have come from our performance schools.”
The role of performance director was hailed by the National Team Coach, Craig Levein, as the most significant appointment the Scottish FA has made in decades. The remit of the role is to take Scottish football from good to great once again, by planning a route from grassroots to the senior national men’s and women’s teams and creating a Best v Best culture.
Mark has played a crucial role in appointing Ricky Sbragia to the position of under-17s coach and is actively recruiting other experienced coaches to focus on other international youth groups.
Wotte has been impressed by the emergence of young Scottish talent amid a grim financial backdrop for the game. “There are a number of young Scottish players that have caught my eye and impressed me greatly,” he said. “Take James Forrest: not only is he regularly playing first team football for Celtic, he is also arguably their best player. Another one is Craig Sibbald. He graduated from our football academy at Graeme High School and has been playing regularly at Falkirk and shone in their cup game against Rangers. Clubs have to be brave when it comes to playing younger players and actually give them a chance to get game time as it is the only way that they can improve.
“Of course qualifying for major championships again is a massive priority for us but there is more to it than that. I believe investment in football has many health and social benefits as well as creating better footballers. It is all about creating a better environment in Scotland both on and off the pitch.”