Scottish FA Performance Director Mark Wotte visited Stirling University Management Centre yesterday to endorse Forth Valley Football Academy and its new Head Coach, Kenny Shiels.

The former Kilmarnock and Greenock Morton manager has been recruited to oversee the pilot project, which has involved the integration of the youth academies of Falkirk, Stenhousemuir and East Stirlingshire.

The regional academy was the first of its kind in Scotland and has already been emulated in Fife, where Dunfermline, Raith Rovers, Cowdenbeath and East Fife have undertaken a similar project in keeping with the Scottish FA's Performance Strategy and, in particular, a commitment to a Best-v-Best environment for the development of elite talent.

Shiels has experience of elite talent development during his time with the Northern Irish FA and believes regional academies are key in harnessing player progression in the senior game.

"Firstly I am delighted to be appointed as the Head Coach of such an innovative project as the Forth Valley Football Academy, which I believe is a brave move by all clubs involved but also an initiative which I firmly believe will maximise the potential of every player within the academy.

"The Scottish FA's Performance Strategy, at its most basic level, is about developing  better standard of player in Scottish football, to ensure a vibrant domestic game but also to produce a higher standard of future international players.

"Regional Academies such as Forth Valley is fundamental to that shared principle and it shows the potential benefits of the governing body, the league and the clubs working together to pursue a common aim."

Mark Wotte, Scottish FA Performance Director: "I have been hugely impressed by Kenny's knowledge and commitment to youth development. While he is perhaps best known in Scotland for winning the League Cup with Kilmarnock it is my belief that Kenny's real area of expertise is understanding and cultivating talented young players.

"It is a very specific skill, completely different to the pressures of club management at first-team level, and as well as his coaching capabilities, Kenny's strategic mind and attention to detail will be hugely important to Forth Valley, off the field as well as on it.

"I am hugely grateful to Falkirk, Stenhousemuir and East Stirlingshire for taking this leap of faith and for committing so wholeheartedly to the Scottish FA's Performance Strategy.

"The Regional Academy format is one that has worked well for many years in Holland and in other prosperous football nations (insert details) and I am greatly encouraged that as well as Forth Valley, we have seen clubs in Fife follow suit.”