Kilmarnock manager Kenny Shiels hailed the newly established 2020 Development Centres as a “fantastic Scottish FA initiative”.

The Scottish FA has established a network of centres across the country to provide players in primary five, six and seven the opportunity to begin their journey through the association’s performance pathway.

Kenny, along with assistant manager Jimmy Nicholl, recently visited the East Ayrshire 2020 Development Centre to observe a training session.

“What a fantastic Scottish FA initiative this is for some of the best local youngsters to come together and train,” Kenny said.

“The earlier we can identify talent through programmes like these the better not only for Kilmarnock FC but for Scottish football as a whole. Jimmy and myself were impressed by the attitude and ability of the kids on show.”

The Scottish FA’s strategic plan, Scotland United: A 2020 Vision, includes a performance strategy to nurture the country’s best players and establish a clear pathway into the Scotland National Teams. The 2020 Development Centres are a crucial first step on this pathway.

In the South West region, over 100 players have been selected to attend centres in Ayr, Dumfries, Kilmarnock, Kilwinning and Stranraer.

The specially designed coaching programme focuses on developing individual technique and game awareness.

Scottish FA South West regional manager John Brown said: “Many of the young players are already involved with the professional clubs in the region and it gives them a chance to train close to home with team-mates and players from other pro-youth set ups and the cream of the local Scottish Youth FA players.

“I am pleased with the response our coaches are getting from the players and was especially delighted that Kilmarnock Manager Kenny Shiels gave up some of his precious time to pop along to his local centre to support the programme.

“Kenny and his assistant Jimmy Nichol offered words of advice to the players being coached by Paul McDonald and Paul Di Giacomo.

“Visits like these really inspire the young boys and girls involved in these centres and help them to realise that their own progress is largely down to their own commitment and dedication and that some of them have the potential to go all the way to the top level of the game."

Keep up-to-date with the latest football activities in the South West region on Twitter @sfa_southwest.