“Recruit talented young players that will excite the Celtic Supporters,” Willie McStay’s Academy Scouting Update

WILLIE McSTAY has provided this fascinating scouting update as part of the Celtic Pools Monthly Bulletin and we are grateful to Paul Daly, Manager at Celtic Pools, for giving us the green light to share this with you this morning on The Celtic Star. So let’s hand over to Willie…

As head of Celtic Academy Scouting, Willie McStay’s role is to manage the Academy Scouting Department, Scouting Team, Scout Coordinators, and Scouting Strategy and Processes.

The Academy Scouting strategy aims to identify talented young players within Scotland and be the leading Club Academy in Scotland with the objective of developing these young players through to the first team and ultimately playing at the highest level of Club football, The Champions League.

The foundation of the player recruitment process begins on the Club’s doorstep, imitating the Lisbon Lions who were all based within a thirty-mile radius of Celtic Park.

The recruitment process starts at the Pre-Academy Phase (5-9 years) where the players are invited to attend a six-week Coaching and Development programme supervised by the Celtic Academy coaches at the three Development Centres based in Glasgow, Central and Ayrshire.

This is the young player’s first step on the Celtic Pathway to Development Squads and Junior Academy Teams. This process is vital as it sets the standard for the level of player recruitment at every phase of the Academy throughout the age groups.

The recruitment process widens progressing through the age groups. At intermediate and professional levels, succession planning identifies players with specific profiles throughout Scotland and in Ireland. There are excellent scouts and connections throughout Ireland who identify elite talent for Celtic.

Top Irish prospect Ben Quinn choose Celtic ahead of some of the biggest clubs in England

In August, the Academy will welcome young Republic of Ireland U16 International player Ben Quinn to the Club after securing his signature on a professional contract. Ben, who comes from Dublin, played with Cherry Orchard and St Patricks Athletic.

Following a re-structuring last season, the Academy Scouting Department now sits within the first team recruitment department and is overseen by Nick Hammond, Head of Football Operations. This change has been fluid and the benefits in communication, support and guidance from Nick and Chris McCart, Academy Manager are very noticeable.

The appointment of Stephen Gormal in the new full-time position of Academy Scouting Coordinator has enhanced the Academy recruitment structure. In addition, the Club has strategically placed a scouting team in specific areas of England.

Unearthing emerging talent in this area has been very successful in the past. Players such as Cameron Harper, Armstrong Okoflex, Barry Coffey and Leo Hjelde have been recruited to the Academy from England, Europe and USA over the last couple of seasons.

With continual development, these young players should be pushing towards first team experience in the very near future. Last season saw the emergence of fans favourite Jeremie Frimpong breaking through and becoming a first team regular. Hopefully there will be more young players to follow.

The Academy has a wonderful team of scouts with a wealth of experience who have identified young talent over the years including James Forrest and Calum McGregor both of whom have played at the highest level for many years in the Celtic jersey. They also scouted Kieran Tierney who joined the Club as an 8 year old and left for a fee of £25 million.

Karamoko Dembele, Stephen Welsh and Scott Robertson broke through to the first team last season and now have the challenge to follow James, Calum and Kieran in playing regularly at the highest level.

Stephen Welsh in action against Cluj in the Europa League last season.

During Lockdown the scouts, like the rest of us, missed watching live games. However, they are now keeping busy watching live and recorded games on scouting systems, gaining valuable knowledge of players to view in live games post lockdown and recording their player reports on the Maestro System.

As part of the scouts development, weekly meetings have been organised on “Zoom” where guest speakers have been invited to make a presentation to the scouts and answer questions on their experiences and areas of expertise including player recruitment.

Finally, we recognise that Celtic supporters love to see home-grown talent coming through the ranks. Therefore, it is very important that the Academy Scouting Department keeps evolving by growing the network and keeping up with new trends in football software for collating information.

Another Academy objective is to continue to identify and recruit talented young players that will excite the Celtic Supporters in future years.

In these unprecedented times, there are many personal challenges for everyone due to Covid-19 which is making life difficult. Football is not immune from these difficulties. The continued support from Celtic Pools and Celtic Supporters plays such a vital role in the development of our Academy and your backing is very much appreciated by the Academy Scouting Department.

Hail ! Hail !

Willie McStay

About Author

The Celtic Star founder and editor, who has edited numerous Celtic books over the past decade or so including several from Lisbon Lions, Willie Wallace, Tommy Gemmell and Jim Craig. Earliest Celtic memories include a win over East Fife at Celtic Park and the 4-1 League Cup loss to Partick Thistle as a 6 year old. Best game? Easy 4-2, 1979 when Ten Men Won the League. Email editor@thecelticstar.co.uk

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