From Elvis to Elton

FALKIRK. Stadium. Ross Wilson. Leaving to go to Watford FC.
FALKIRK. Stadium. Ross Wilson. Leaving to go to Watford FC.

head of football development Ross Wilson is saying goodbye to The Falkirk Stadium’s yellow brick road.

Tomorrow (Friday) is Wilson’s last day after seven years at Falkirk. In ten days time he will take up a role at English nPower Championship side Watford.

But after taking on the role of head of football business for the Hornets - a role akin to the director of football - he admits he has still to meet owner and long-time fan Reginald K Dwight.

“I haven’t heard from him yet,” he told Heraldsport, “though I recently met the chairman, Graham Taylor - he’s a lovely man and is very supportive and carries a great deal of integrity and knowledge with him.

“It’s a new challenge for me and it will be a challenge for the manager here at Falkirk next season, but if anyone can take this club to the SPL it is Steven Pressley.”

Wilson is leaving his boyhood team, one where he became involved just eager to help out, before becoming an integral part of the behind the scenes at the club. It’s a far cry from the day as a pupil at Larbert High he heard the club was in administration and cycled to Brockville to find out what was happening.

“I can’t remember why we went, or what happened once we got there. I just remember cycling to the ground.”

That eagerness to help everyone connected to the club has seen him tied down for seven-times as long as he thought, move into the role of head of football development and become a valuable member of the team. He’s also overseen the progression of several youth players through the ranks to the Falkirk first-team, and gain international recognition.

Those emotional ties made the decision to swap Elvis for Elton John and the Bairns for the Hornets all the more difficult.

“I love it here, I’ve grown up here. I started with the club basically as a gap year after university before taking on a role connected with my honours degree (in social science), but here I am seven years on.

“The Academy at Stirling is now producing players for the first team so I’ve completed the job, and there’s more to come in the next three years.

“I helped in its infancy, so it is sad to leave guys I’ve been with throughout their time with the club - there are guys who I’ve watched grow up into young men from nine to 16 years old. It was particularly hard to say goodbye to them.

“I’m leaving behind a number of bright talents. Stephen Kingsley has had his first-team shot then there are the bright hopes further down the ladder Craig Sibbald, Craig Comrie and Kyle Turnbull.

“I’ve grown up with these guys. It is sad to leave but the time is right.”

During his spell with the Bairns he’s been player liason, education and welfare officer, then head of football development and that’s now added football administration where he deals with scouting and contracts.

“In a sense it is a similar job, a little bit broader and obviously a bigger club in the championship with aspirations for a return to the Premier League.

“Three months ago, I was called, went for a visit and felt it was the right time for me - too good an opportunity to turn down.

“I’ll be based at Vicarage Road, responsible for managing the network of scouts. I’ll have a lot more staff to manage and look after their Academy - they have a scheme for progressing and educating their young people.

“They’re all about bringing their young players through ‘The Watford Way’. Its almost identical in that respect to the set-up we have here, just on a larger scale.”

The 28-year-old has been an important part of establishing the youth system at Falkirk, and worked closely with head of the community programme Tom Elliot and MD George Craig.

It’s brought many a proud moment for Wilson, who could never have imagined how a gap-year after studying would lead him to the Watford gap.

“Everybody wants to work at the top of their career - I’m no different - I want to work at the top end of the industry - that’s the English Premier League.

“Malky Mackay is an ambitious manager with a young squad - but when you see him at close quarters and how he works, you can see why he has done well, and can do well.”

He concedes he felt he had to move to make the next step away from a club curtailed by the structure of Scottish football, believing the country has to instil a bigger top tier which will help with more Academies produce good young talent.

“Scottish football really needs play-offs brought in and a bigger league - they need change to re-invigorate the leagues here and everyone needs to keep investing in youth.

“Expanding the leagues, making it more exciting, will reduce pressure on clubs and youths will get more of a chance.

“Teams across the country are investing. At one time it was just Falkirk at Stirling and Rangers who had academies, now everyone is trying to invest in them.”

For Wilson, with the club during the Yogi Years, Eddie May’s management and now with present boss Pressley, picking a highlight is tough

“There are so many,” he says. “Being named a performance club and being involved in creating a top level set up that is highly regarded - that’s a major plus point.

“We didn’t have a youth international, now we have 28 and hopefully 30 very shortly.

“We’ve had Darren Barr, Tam Scobbie, Scott Arfield play a Scottish Cup final after coming through now we’ve Kingsley and Blair Alston. I’m proud to have been a part of that.

“George Craig has been extremely supportive of myself and Tom Elliot with the club academy and community. He deserves a lot of my thanks, as does Martin Ritchie, though the chairman for most of my time at the club has been Campbell Christie and I am indebted to all of them for the support and help they’ve given me.”