Accies Academy Director George Cairns has praised the hard work of the academy staff in adapting to the current times.
He said: “It’s certainly challenging times, the academy has been a bit stop start for all of last year. We have a team of about 35 people who love doing their coaching and improving these kids that have not had that chance.
“We try and interact as much as possible with the kids. Sunnan Shah, our head of sports science, has started to do sport science sessions on zoom. Matt Boyle and Gary Hucknall are two guys who have been working to create goals and come up with challenges which keep the kids switched on.
“Our Covid Officer Scott Struthers has been fantastic; he has kept all of us up to date with the latest rules for football and academies and that allows us to put in place plans for the future which helps keep both the staff and the players as safe as possible.”
The academy director has been delighted to see many of his academy graduates making the step-up to play in the first team when called upon this season.
He said: “It’s good to see the academy kids playing. The gaffer has faith in them. Looking at Kyle Munro he scored the winner against Livingston and has been in and around the first team since.
“Reegan did well in our win against Motherwell earlier in the season. George Stanger has trained very hard and did well here against Motherwell.
“It’s great to see them get their chance, we know they will make mistakes. Playing in the Premiership isn’t easy but its how they react to these mistakes.”
Cairns also praised the efforts of the board of directors to ensure the long-term future of the academy was secured in these difficult times.
He said: “Ronnie MacDonald, Colin McGowan and Allan Maitland are all about the youth academy, they understand and buy into the ethos of the academy. I have been invited onto the board which is a fantastic achievement and I think shows how important building for the future is for the club.
“These guys go out their way to bring in as much income as possible for the youth academy as well as the first team. Some clubs might have the first team take priority, here it is very much one unit.”
Cairns has also been delighted to see three Accies Academy graduates captain the side at different points in the season.
He said: “It’s fantastic, Scott McMann is an unsung hero of the club. He very rarely misses a game. He has also captained this side. As a player he is a great example for young players, he has a great enthusiasm and will always come in to do added extra to kick on.
“Shaun Want has captained the side as well and when he was in defence he led by example. Shaun has been unfortunate with his injury.
“Brian Easton came through our academy, had a fantastic career and has come back. He has led by example in defence and when it is safe he has been doing a bit of coaching with our academy to share what he has learned.
“As a club we are all about the kids to have our side captained by academy graduates is fantastic for kids in our academy to see.”
Cairns praised the hard work of the academy players and their parents to adapt to new training methods during lockdown.
He said: “The engagement our tasks got has been fantastic, this has helped us overcome the challenge of no one-to-one coaching by keeping the kids engaged.
“It’s becoming harder in winter and with poorer weather but on social media some of the kids have been out and keeping active so that’s fantastic to see.
“The parents have been a huge help for us, some of them have lost their job or face the challenge of working from home but they make sure the kids are staying engaged and that’s a credit to them.”