Stenhousemuir and Falkirk football clubs are ready to amalgamate their youth structures into a radical regional football academy.
East Stirlingshire are also believed to have given initial backing to the ground-breaking local trial based on models in Spain and Holland.
Letters have been issued to players and their parents at the Bairns and Warriors detailing the proposal to form a Forth Valley set-up based at the University of Stirling.
In one, seen by The Falkirk Herald from Ochilview head of youth Graeme Robertson, it says “Our club, along with East Stirlingshire and Falkirk, has intimated our desire to be part of this new vision and will from next season compete against the country’s top clubs as a region.”
The letters also state players will remain registered to the clubs and that no quotas of representation per team are in place. However the move will see some players released after assessment over “the next few weeks”.
“In many ways this is no different to the process that is normally carried out at this time of the season,” the letter states. “ Clearly there will be an increased potential that your son will not receive an invitation.”
The letters add: “The overarching aim of this new venture and indeed the rationale behind the recommendation made by the National Performance Director is to ensure that only players of exceptional ability and who have the potential to play at the very highest level should participate in Club Academy Scotland.”
This aim would fall into line with Mark Wotte’s desire and vision for a ‘best versus best’ development culture. As unlikely as it sounds, Scotland currently has more than 1,000 ‘elite’ players training in club academies nationwide - narrowing this by region is viewed by the SFA as a way of ensuring the true cream of the crop consistently face one another.
The Forth Valley area has been targeted thanks to the success of both clubs’ present youth outlooks, the facilities at Stirling University, and the success of the previous SFA project piloted in the area - the performance school at Graeme High, which Mark Wotte visited last week.
Although plans are still at an early stage, the proposal will see a regional Forth Valley side competing against the top Academy clubs in Scotland from the start of next season..