Concerns Over Morton Youth Set-Up

Recently a disgruntled parent posted a message on the Morton messageboard claiming that Morton broke promises by releasing the whole under 17's youth squad and this set off a debate among Morton fans as to the quality and importance of our youth system.

This criticism came hot on the heels of a piece in the Greenock Telegraph in which former Morton player Craig McPherson expressed concerns over the lack of Morton scouts monitoring local youth football.

The argument has raged on and Morton chairman Douglas Rae defended the youth set-up in the Greenock Telegraph (6.6.07). Rae said that Morton wont be changing their current youth policy and stated that Morton have just took on a full team of under 13's from First Touch. He also went onto say that Morton have qualified youth coaches in Peter Weatherson, Chris Millar and Jamie Stevenson and that 'we' do have scouts and they go to every game they can.

Rae's defence was countered by John Kennedy - the chairman of local boys club St. Andrews. The article says that Kennedy is 'disillusioned' by Morton's youth set up and that he is not alone. His primary concern echoes Craig McPherson's comment that Morton have no scouts at youth team games. Kennedy says that he sees scouts from Celtic, Rangers, Motherwell, Hibs and Aberdeen at his games but none from Morton and that he doesn't even know who any of the Morton scouts are.

Morton's youth set-up is a subject I am very passionate about. I would much prefer to see us producing our own talent than buying it and I have to confess I am concerned with the youth set-up and that it has never fully recovered from Hugh Scott's days.

I was particularly concerned by Douglas Rae's comment that if local youth team managers think their boys are good enough they should contact Morton. That is nonsense, particularly when larger clubs are going to the effort of sending their scouts to these matches. A club of Morton's size has to be ahead of the game in this respect. To get these players before the big clubs we have to get there first and convince the boys that signing for Morton is in their best interests rather than have the attitude that if they are good enough they should contact us.

I also don't like the fact that some of out current players are managing the youth teams. They might be very good coaches but I think they should be focusing on their own careers. Stevenson and Millar are still relatively young players in their own right and are in effect still learning the game. My younger brother was a talented local footballer who got a trial with Ross County when he moved to Inverness and I'll never forget his reaction when he came home to tell us that an experienced player like Brian Irvine had just taken him for training. I'd prefer to see Morton employing more experienced former players like Irvine to coach the youths rather than players who are still concentrating on their own careers. For example, Jason Walker was coaching one of the teams and left to return to England because he was homesick. This change in management would not be good for the continuity of the youth team Walker was managing.

Under Peter Weir (and Billy Stark) Morton had an excellent youth system that produced a team that made it to the semi-finals of the BP Youth cup and who were only beaten by Celtic (at Parkhead) after extra time. Many of the players in that team are still involved in football be it at senior or junior level. I'd like to see Morton return to youth policy similar to this. Although it would be even better if we could get back to producing guys like Derek Lilley, Alan Mahood, Brian Reid , Derek McInnes and the like.

I think all Morton fans can appreciate that until we got back to the 1st Division youth development was not a priority. However now we are back in the 1st I think it's about time we stopped ignoring the youth set-up and raised its standard to match all the other improvements that Douglas Rae has made at Cappielow since he took over. I know this would cost money but I think it would be worth it.

Rae defends youth set-up in the Tele :

Thread on Youth Set-Up : http://www.greenockmorton.net/forum/index.php?showtopic=14330

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