As part of the club’s ongoing commitment to improving communications with fans, the official site are looking to improve coverage of the U20’s side, including post-match thoughts from co-Managers Neil Oliver & Myles Allan.
And to kick things off, the official site interviewed the pair to catch up on the season so far amongst other topics.
“We haven’t set any targets with regards to results and league positions,” opens Myles. “The Development League can be heavily influenced by the number of ‘overage’ players that each team uses, so using results or league positions as a means of accessing the team’s success would be a waste of time.
“The perfect example is the last time we played Raith, who we play again this evening. We didn’t field a single player over 20, whilst they had five players on the park with significant SPFL Championship experience. What is most important to us is that the players continue to improve.”
Neil agreed, whilst noting: “We’ve encouraged a style of football that is pleasing on the eye. Before the Winter break we got a fantastic win against Cowdenbeath, but more importantly, it was a great performance. So it’s about improving both individually and as a team.”
“But with that said, we often benefit from the experience of our senior players. It’s great that the first-team lads can come and get a game, and at the same time pass their knowledge on to the younger lads. It helps the boys become more familiar with each other too, so when it comes to a player being promoted into the first-team environment, they’ll already be familiar with each other’s game.”
And 38 year-old Allan added: “You can’t underestimate the impact the senior players are capable of having on a game. Their experience is obviously helpful, but for me I think their ability to maintain a higher tempo is also a huge advantage to have.
“But that said, these games also present their challenges to first-teamers. It inevitably isn’t long before they find themselves playing on High School 3G pitches in galeforce winds and hailstones. So in those situations, it’s important for them to remember their inclusion in the U20 squad isn’t a punishment and that a good performance can help them regain their first-team spot.”
The working relationship between the pair is perhaps unusual, with few clubs opting to employ co-managers, but it’s clear that it is a system the pair are happy with, as Neil continued:
“As a club, we’re quite unique because of our position on the map. I take the home games and Myles the away trips, but it works because we have the trust between us to leave each other to get on with it. The players have been great too, they’ve responded to everything we’ve asked of them.”
“A lot of that trust probably comes from the fact that, whilst we both have different personalities, we have similar ideas on how the game should be played.” Myles expands.
“But it’s not without its challenges. As every player in the team is also out on loan at an East of Scotland or Junior side, we don’t train together very often. That probably places us at a disadvantage as we can only really make coaching points before, during and after matches, but as said, we’ve been delighted with how the players respond to our feedback.”
Asked how the pair got involved with the Under 20’s, Myles explained that it was former manager Colin Cameron who brought him to the club.
“I’d just resigned as manager of East of Scotland side Burntisland Shipyard. A week later Colin got in touch and asked me to provide opposition reports – a role I still help out with on Saturdays. But when Robbie (Horn) left the club and Jason Dair was promoted to assist Colin, myself and Neil were appointed to co-manage the squad.”
And former Blackburn Rovers man Neil noted that it was actually Cameron’s former assistant Robbie Horn who brought him to Shielfield, noting that the former club-captain “Got in touch last season after I’d left Coldstream, and I was only too happy to accept his offer.”
It’s clear the pair are on the same wavelength when asked about their footballing values, with both noting their belief that it is vital to give locals a platform to develop their ability
“As a local person myself I think it’s vital to give locals a chance – we can’t be a good community football club if we don’t. I have ambitions over time to help the club to create a clearer pathway from youth to senior, which I feel would help generate more local talents of the required ability and attitude.”
Myles meanwhile admitted “Supporters in general probably just want to see a successful side as possible. But there is usually a closer affinity between the supporters and local players. We are in a position now where we have a number of locals, and I’m hoping we can add another couple to that next season.
“Wherever the players are from, it’s our job to make sure they’re good enough to make the step up. I believe we’ve got talents in the current squad who can do just that. Even by under 20’s standards, we have a young squad with the majority being eligible to play again next season, so there’s plenty of time for them to break through yet.
“We’ve already had our successes, too. Barry (Hogg) has been involved this season, and I’m sure Calum Helm would have featured had it not been for his injury. Daniel Watt & Charlie Denton have also been called up to the bench recently so there’s nothing stopping youngsters from having an impact at first-team level.”
One player who has played regular under 20’s football this season is Mark Walters, the stopper using the Development League as a platform to stay match sharp, and Neil Oliver believes it’s a big part as to why he was able to step in so impressively at Clyde this weekend.
“I’ve worked with Mark for over ten years now. His commitment to improving is first-class, and he’s shown a great attitude to get to this level.” It’s an opinion shared by Myles Allan who acknowledged his efforts, explaining: “It’s difficult for ‘keepers to come in and play after long spells without football. He wasn’t tested much against Cowdenbeath last Sunday but that and the time spent on the park against Annan will have had him up to speed, it just goes to show the importance of regular football.”
Stopper Walters is a perfect example of a local who kept working for his opportunity, and the pair are keen to see more players of the same ilk.
“If you work hard and have a good attitude with the club you’re currently with, the chances are you’ll be someone who has my interest,” opens Neil. “We have players involved as young as 16, so if you feel like you have the talent and attitude desired, email the club and we can take a look.”
Myles backs up his co-manager once again, as he finishes “We get a lot of emails from youngsters across the country requesting trials, so we go out to watch as many youth games as possible. But If you feel you have the ability to play for us, we’d be happy to hear from you!”
Further information for prospective players can be found here.