Falkirk and Stenhousemuir come together to nurture the football stars of the future

03-07-2013. Picture Michael Gillen. STIRLING. University of Stirling. Home of Scottish FA Central Region. Ex-Falkirk FC training centre, now Forth Valley Regional Football Academy.
03-07-2013. Picture Michael Gillen. STIRLING. University of Stirling. Home of Scottish FA Central Region. Ex-Falkirk FC training centre, now Forth Valley Regional Football Academy.
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The Forth Valley Regional Academy amalgamation between Stenhousemuir and Falkirk aims to provide a higher level of coaching for the district’s future football stars.

Signs have been erected at the University of Stirling’s campus for the new regional academy, which will fulfil the SFA’s requirements for a four-star Elite Academy criteria once up and running – instead of the current three-star performance levels being used by the Bairns and Warriors.

It’s all about developing players as individuals and taking them onto the next level – rather than the clubs, says Stenhousemuir’s head of youth Graeme Robertson, who will be involved.

“The clubs will obviously benefit in the long-term if the players leaving the new set-up are at a high standard.

“That’s what the Academy aims to achieve - taking players onto the highest standards as possible, and the phrase ‘best versus best’ is often used when they’re playing with and competing against one another.”

Difficult decisions have had to be made in recent months in terms of player selection for the new-look Academy pilot scheme, yet clubs who have not opted-in to the Academy, such as Stirling Albion, are also looking to benefit, by offering an alternative outlet to recently released players.

“It’s not about developing teams,” added Robertson, who will work alongside the Scottish Football Association, Falkirk’s Craig McPherson and Craig Robertson and Larbert High School’s Jamie Swinney, “we’re developing players.

“This way, every player should find their level. We have a responsibility to get them to the SPL standard, then look to take a few further than that to an international standard.”

That’s a bold ambition for the pilot scheme, but one which stands to benefit the national game if the Forth Valley model proves to be a success at Stirling and achieves a roll-out across Scotland.

Since Falkirk has started to move out and back to The Falkirk Stadium, the Craig Gowans Football Centre still stands with dressing rooms, office space, treatment rooms and stores on-site. Likewise the University’s gym and swimming facilities also create a state-of-the-art base which lifts the award-winning academies standards up by one star rating.

Both clubs’ commitment to youth should not be affected either. Gary Holt and Martyn Corrigan have the liberty to take players contracted to their respective clubs from the Academy and pitch them into the first team pool if they are required and suitable.

From Stenhousemuir’s perspective, Robertson added: “Martyn (Corrigan) and Kevin (McGoldrick) are keen to bring players through to the first team – look at Sean Dickson last season. He was terrific.

“Hopefully, we can bring more through like him to achieve first at a local level for Stenhousemuir and Falkirk, and then further their career – benefiting the clubs – and the national squads in the process.”