Berwick Rangers’ new Head of Youth Coaching Derek McKenzie has revealed that his arrival at Shielfield Park was a long time coming, having worked with the club just after John Coughlin’s appointment as first-team manager.
“When John was appointed he spoke to me more or less right away with a view to joining the club. I was then in a position to scout and also to spend a lot of time at our current development team and the systems supporting it. I was also able to get out to the clubs where we had a number of youth players out on loan.
“However at that stage, the club nor John were in a position to appoint me. The manager’s job at that point was to ensure the safety of Berwick Rangers Football Club. Once the club had secured its league position and John had agreed a deal to stay with the club, I was able to get to work officially with the club.
“As the head of youth coaching, I’m in overall charge of the Development Team. Neil (Oliver) will take the team for home games, whilst I’ll take the team for away games.
“But there are number of other aspects for me to consider. John’s work to implement more of a ladder below the Development Team with the introduction of the Colts and strengthening relations with Tweedmouth Rangers has already been documented, and there are further plans we have that we’re looking to get over the line shortly.”
McKenzie first worked with Coughlin back at East Stirlingshire and also works as a youth scout for Hibernian. As such, he possesses a wealth of knowledge on young Scottish talent, but he also revealed that he will be sticking to remits that Coughlin has set at a first-team level when scouting for new players.
“We need systems in place to improve the players we have. I have to oversee and implement everything that John wants. Having worked with him previously, I know exactly what he’s looking for in a player, and my recruitment will be based on his preferred profile of a player.
“Sometimes I’ll have to expand on that slightly, but I’ll recruit these players with the same philosophy as John utilises in the first-team. We had 19 trialists in total last weekend.
“We created a training programme for these guys working with the sports scientists. We’re focusing heavily on building the players physically to ensure they’d be prepared to step up into senior football.”
With Berwick travelling to Clyde later today with no less than four Under 20’s players prepared to be named in the ‘Gers squad, it is probably with good reason. Though Coughlin’s hand has been somewhat forced thus far, McKenzie is confident the chances will be there in the future, too.
“We have a small first-team squad, so a lot of what we have to do is to ensure we can supplement that first-team squad. John is making it easier for me by already giving younger lads a chance in the squads.
“He has been at almost every development game so far, whilst Myles (Allan) and Jonathan (Craig) have also been in attendance. It’s clear we’re taking youth development very seriously.”