The largest single area of Scotland covered by the Scottish FA is the North region.
Led by Graeme Sutherland, the sport’s governing body offers all of its football programmes to a land mass stretching across Shetland, Orkney, Western Isles, Highland, Moray, Aberdeenshire and Aberdeen City.
Taking football to some of Scotland’s most scenic and remote areas is Peter Budge.
Peter hails from Wick and was a player of the local team there, Wick Academy FC, for over a decade.
“After my playing days I decided to take up coaching as football had been good to me and I wanted to give something back,” Peter said.
In 1997 Peter obtained his UEFA B Licence at the Scottish FA’s coach education centre at Largs.
Added to an HNC in Sports Coaching and Sports Development, Peter had sufficient qualifications to take up a coaching role with the under-15s at Ross County FC.
Travelling has always been a key component of Peter’s coaching career. At the Staggies, he would clock hundreds of miles per week as he delivered sessions to players.
He explained: “Tuesday evenings would mean travelling to Thurso to coach Caithness United and local Ross County players.
“On Thursdays I would travel from Wick to Dingwall for training and on Sundays it was match day – over 400 miles a week on a regular basis.”
During this period, Peter obtained what he describes as the “Holy Grail” of youth football coaching qualifications – the Scottish FA Youth Licence.
He was driven by a desire to help increase the number of players from the far north of Scotland who had professional football careers.
“In the Lochaber Area, Duncan Shearer, Donald Park and John McGinlay, who played for Fort William FC, went on to have distinguished careers,” he said.
“However there was no one coming through from the far north, particularly Caithness.
“I’m glad to say that has now changed with stepping stones in place for players to develop and reach their potential, with the benefit of the youth systems at Ross County FC and Inverness Caledonian Thistle FC.
“Gary Mackay Steven and Shane Sutherland, signed from Wick Academy FC, are now both playing in the SPL. “
After five years at Ross County, Peter was lured home to coach his beloved Wick Academy.
He was a man in demand. Nine months later the Scottish FA came calling with an offer of a position as ‘Football Development Officer’ for the Highlands and Islands.
“As unhappy as I was at leaving Wick Academy FC, the lure of working full-time in football, covering this beautiful part of the world was a no- brainer,” Peter explained.
“The area that I cover is from the Orkney Islands, including the Small Isles in the north, to Nairn in the east, to Lochaber in the south, to the Outer Hebrides in the west.
“This is a massive demographic area, with magnificent mountains, great glens and stunning scenery.”
During his five and half years in this role, Peter has witnessed the development of coach education in areas which had previously been untouched.
He said: “Coach education has become a big player for the Highlands and Islands with all levels being covered.
“This year alone coach education courses were held in Caithness, Brora, Inverness, Portree, Stornoway ,Orkney and Barra.”
On the remote Outer Hebridean island of Barra, Peter said there had been a risk that organised football would disappear due to a lack of coaches.
Funded by the Scottish Government’s CashBack for Communities Fund, Peter flew in during the summer to engage with locals and provide coaching for young people.
“Coaches had left so it was important to bring in new enthusiastic volunteers as the younger generation on the island are mad keen on their football,” said Peter.
“This is evident in the travelling they do to compete in festivals which follow the Scottish FA Player Pathway.”
Peter’s island remit requires a particular style of management.
He explained: “Local football forums are an integral part of engaging with island clubs and associations, keeping them updated with new developments in the game and on how the Scottish FA can support them.”
The Scottish FA doesn’t work alone. It can only deliver its football programmes with the collaboration of clubs and local authorities.
Peter said he had been moved by the friendly and accommodating attitude of locals he had met during his travels.
“I couldn’t deliver the Scottish FA projects without the massive contribution from key personnel on the islands,” he added.
“The efforts made by all to plan, promote, organise and deliver the projects will hopefully inspire players, volunteers, coaches, clubs and associations. Their expertise and knowledge of the area creates trust .
“I am truly thankful for this role.”