East Stirlingshire has joined forces with one of the Falkirk district’s biggest youth football clubs to offer an improved community programme.
New kids teams will play under the banner of ‘East Stirlingshire Galaxy’, reflecting the partnership between the Shire and and Little Kerse Leisure, which runs the LK Galaxy Sports football facility at Grangemouth’s former BP Club site.
The aim is to get everyone from pre-school onwards participating in fun football coaching sessions with the aim of eventually getting kids wearing Shire’s famous black-and-white hoops in a series of community teams participating in under-age leagues.
From there the most talented could have a chance of progressing all the way to the Bainsford club’s first team through an innovative player pathway programme which also includes a route into the Forth Valley Football Academy.
There are also plans to develop programmes for adults including those with learning disabilities.
The sessions, which are due to start soon, will take place at the Little Kerse facility with a recruitment programme preceding it.
The partnership has already made its first signing in SFA-qualified coach, Jason Bolam, who will become the scheme’s Community Engagement Manager.
Other activities will include holiday camps, special one-to-one coaching sessions and birthday parties.
Youngsters who join the Galaxy will also get the chance to experience a first team match day with visits to Ochilview to see the senior side in action, meet the players and even get a chance to show off the skills they have learned in front of the crowd at half-time at a professional match.
“We want the Galaxy to become the centre of the universe for youngsters in the local area to learn the basics, hone their skills and become the next generation of Shire fans and players,” said club chairman Tony Ford.
“Community programmes are not new and we accept that other clubs have been running them for years, but we have to recognise that we need to reach out to the future and try and grasp it.”
The coaching sessions will be based at Little Kerse, which operates under the LK Galaxy Sports brand. The Grangemouth football centre already has one full-sized 3G pitch, a number of five-a-side courts as well as quality grass football pitches.
Sessions will take place on week days after school delivering high quality coaching for children of primary school age. There are also taster sessions planned for adults with learning difficulties.
In time, the club’s community youth teams will become part of the project with East Stirlingshire Galaxy giving as many kids the chance to play in the club’s black-and-white hoops.
The agreement between East Stirlingshire and Little Kerse Leisure will run for an initial three years. Both are committing substantial funding to the project and part of the finance is coming from the Scottish Government through its Scottish Communities League Cup investment.
“Our players and coaches already use Little Kerse as their training base and only recently we opened a dedicated club changing facility on the site,” said Shire chairman Tony Ford.
“It makes perfect sense to grow our clubs’ future here.”
For Stephen Barr, the managing director of Little Kerse Leisure, having a senior professional football club as a partner is the perfect match.
Plans are already in the pipeline to improve the facilities and make the site into a top-class football venue.
“We are bringing together two brands in a genuine partnership to provide mutual benefit,” he said.
“In the years ahead we both will be working along with with a wider range of stakeholders to transform the whole of the Little Kerse site which we hope will provide The Shire and others with a permanent home.”