“Scottish football must work collectively and strategically to ensure we cultivate the most talented players at all age groups.”

These were the words of Scotland’s first ever Performance Director, Mark Wotte and despite his recent departure, the work and strategy he helped to create remains in place. This is very much the case at the seven performance schools across the country, including at Hazelhead Academy.

Stuart Glennie is two years into his job as Hazlehead Academy’s Performance School Elite Youth Coach. “No one is claiming that we are doing everything right because it is a work in progress and we are still relatively early into a new programme. We are giving players an opportunity and providing coaching contact every single weekday. The ultimate gain is to obviously improve the standard of player that feed into the national teams, but we also want to develop young players and people.”

Before taking on the job as Elite Coach, Glennie spent five years as a community coach with Aberdeen Football club and then two and a half years as co-manager of Highland League side Deveronvale. He also spent two years working with the AFC Youth Academy.

The School Performance scheme allows the best young, Scottish players to train with each other Monday to Friday. The Hazlehead performance school currently has 37 players; 31 signed with Aberdeen, two with Aberdeen ladies and 4 from local youth clubs including Banks O Dee Albion and Lewis United.

The daily coaching consists of four main components; technical, tactical, physical and mental skills. An important factor for the performance schools is to identify the best players from the area.

Glennie said: “We have scouts across the region who are attending games on a weekly basis and compiling reports on players. We scout players based on the main components but we also consider players who may not have that right now but have the potential to kick on.

“Players have the chance to not only be coached every day, but to also train with the very best players from their region. They also get the chance to compete against the best players Nationally as we have matches against the other performance schools at least three times a year.”

There is little doubt that the opportunity for the players selected for these performance schools is a great one, but it doesn’t come without its sacrifices.

Glennie explained: “It is a huge, huge commitment for all the players involved.

“The majority of them need to change schools and leave their friends behind, while some of them need to travel 50/60 miles to get to the school. A couple of players from the Hazlehead Performance School are from Fraserburgh and beyond and are having to get up at five in the morning to then get 2 buses to school.

“The performance school isn’t for everyone and not everyone can cope with the demands of it. Prior to offering places to players, we interview both them and their parents.”

The Hazlehead Performance School is now in its third year and the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive, but despite this, Stuart Glennie believes patience is still needed.

“With the introduction of 20/20 centres, Performance Schools and Regional Squads there is now a clear pathway for our younger players to progress up the ladder towards representing Scotland. Not only that, but it is allowing our best young players the chance to get feedback on their game and progress on a weekly, if not daily basis.

“We won’t know the real success of the scheme until we are a few more years down the line and we can see where the players from the performance schools are, and if the national team has benefitted from them.”

The future looks bright for Scotland and within the game there is a real feeling that the performance schools will benefit the national team in the long run.