Berwick Rangers’ Head of Youth Coaching Derek McKenzie has revealed that in order to ensure ‘Gers youngsters have the best chance of breaking through, he will be implementing a playing style similar to that found at first-team level throughout his youth sides.

Head of Youth Coaching Derek McKenzie is keen to build the physical side of his youngsters
Head of Youth Coaching Derek McKenzie is keen to build the physical side of his youngsters

“At first-team level John has generally adopted a 3-5-2. It’s been adapted, but we’re recruiting players to enable us to employ that formation.

“Our aim is to make ourselves exceptionally hard to beat. John is very big on detail – he wants and needs every player to know their role in the side. And that’s what we’re doing with the kids.

“We’re making it clear what the expectation is of them on and off the park. We’re familiarising them with their roles. We’re developing their leadership skills. The provision for our players is that if they do well enough, they’ll get an opportunity in our first-team.”

McKenzie led the ‘Gers Under 20’s side in a 3-3 draw away to Blackburn United yesterday afternoon, and he continued to admit that his task at the club is one that will require a lot of work.

“When John went full-time, he made it clear that he didn’t want to continue swapping players with other lower league clubs season on season”, began McKenzie. “We felt that keeping these guys for a year and moving them on because we felt they weren’t good enough didn’t represent a stable long-term plan.

“So my job is to ensure that Berwick have a youth system that allows us to develop and bring through more of our own talent. If I’m being honest, that’s a big remit.

“I spoke to Myles Allan shortly after my role was confirmed, and he was quite rightly proud of the Development Team’s achievements last season. Both Myles and John were interested to work out how we’d go about bettering what was a great season for our Under 20’s.

“My answer to that was that whilst it’s a massive challenge, it’s one that I’m up to. We’ve set our plans, got in our team and everyone is buying into it. And our work strengthening ties with Tweedmouth Rangers and introducing a Colts team is just the start – we have more to come, too.”

Tweedmouth Rangers and the 'Gers Colts side will play out of Old Shielfield this campaign
Both Tweedmouth Rangers and the ‘Gers Colts side will play out of Old Shielfield this campaign

The club are preparing to release information about one of those exciting plans early this week. Whilst McKenzie wouldn’t be drawn on dishing out an exclusive, he did reveal that he is also looking to improve things on a smaller level.

“I’m a great believer in marginal gains – I often look to British Cycling and Dave Brailsford as an example as to just how successful that can be.

“That’s what we’ve had to adopt at this moment in time, small changes. A lot of small margins add up to a bigger percentage.

“For me, recruitment is the biggest part of any football club. Without the right players with the right attitudes, you’re snookered before you start.

“But I’m fully satisfied with the lads we’ve got in at the moment, both in ability and attitude. There’s a good mixture. We’ve got a core from the East Lothian area, and it’s great that we have a few Berwick boys too.

“We’ve also recruited from a little further afield, but much like with John’s first-team transfer policy, we didn’t go to the West of Scotland, and I didn’t go any higher than Fife.

“For me, there’s no point in recruiting from much further afield. I’ve watched lads from Stirling, Cumbernauld and the likes. But I make the journey myself from that way and I wouldn’t like to inflict that on players from the central belt.”