Dunfermline Athletic

2013 was the Year of Youth

Tuesday, 24th Dec 2013

Stephen would like to thank Dunfermline Athletic Youth Director Craig McWhirter for his continued support, also all of our sponsors, players, parents and coaches for making this an enjoyable and productive year.


Dunfermline Athletic Head of Youth Department, Stephen Wright, is very pleased with what has been a very successful year at the Club for both himself and his coaches.

The year started off with two weeks in Cyprus on the Leonardo Da Vinci programme alongside under 20's coach John Potter, youth coach Grant Petrie and nineteen young players. Stephen recalled the great effect that trip had on the young players:-

"Looking back now, the training camp in Cyprus was the start of what would be a fantastic year for our young footballers at Dunfermline Athletic.  Players like Shaun Byrne, Kerr Young, Ross Millen and Allan Smith went on the trip as first team fringe players and came back much closer to the manager's plans due to the intense training and match schedule, overall togetherness and efforts of the squad. Shaun made his full debut in the Fife derby then the manager gave him permission to go to Cyprus with the squad. When he returned he went straight back into the team and has never looked back since."

Dunfermline Athletic Under 20s in Cyprus

Next in the diary was the quarter final of the Youth Cup against Inverness CT which we won 3 1, then the semi-final against St Mirren where the boys worked incredibly hard to make it to the final. Stephen believes that the team spirit and togetherness built in Cyprus carried us through to Hampden against Celtic, where we were unlucky to lose on the night.

"During this time, with the club going into administration, players like Grant Munro, Ross Drummond, and Blair Henderson were also introduced into the first team set up and by the end of the season we had eight youth players who have all come through the system making their first team debuts. On top of that, we had reached the final of the SFA Youth Cup, the first time in twenty five years for the Club.


"To end the season with those statistics was a fantastic achievement for everyone at the club. If you now include Lewis Martin, Lewis Spence, Ryan Williamson and Ryan Goodfellow, that is twelve players coming through the system to make first team debuts to date."

The first season in the U20 SPL league was also a massive benefit for our youngsters and players like Lewis Martin, Lewis Spence, Declan O'Kane, Scott Mercer, Finn Graham and Scott Gray were all exposed to opposing first team players and gaining much needed experience early in their careers.

"Lewis Martin aged 16 played centre half against Shefki Kuqi of Hibs last season and had a fantastic game, which I am sure he will remember for a very long time. I worked with Lewis when he was 12 years old at Rangers and I could tell he was something special back then, so it was very pleasing he wanted to come and play for me again aged 15 when he left Rangers".

The U20 set up has been a great bonus for the Club as it has given the manager and Neil McCann a chance to watch the young players playing "real football" at East End Park under the floodlights.

"John Potter continues to work brilliantly with the young players and also works closely with myself at the younger age groups to make sure the transition from youth to professional player is as smooth as possible. In the summer Ryan Williamson and Gavin McMillan were introduced to the first team environment from U17 and the former has really taken his chance with both hands.

Ryan Williamson and Gavin McMillan sign contracts

"Gavin, being a year younger will benefit with more U20 games to come, however Ryan has been a shining light for everyone in the youth department. He has worked extremely hard at his game for the last three years, in which he has only played right back for a couple of those years so he is learning all the time. In fact, it shows to all our players in the youth system that, whilst he made a mistake that led to Ayr Utd's second goal last week, he shrugged this off with ease and performed excellently afterwards.

"This is something we encourage within all our teams, not to be affected by a mistake - we welcome mistakes, it is how you respond to them that makes the difference. Ryan made an immediate impression on the manager and Neil from day one and has gone from strength to strength. Now he is attracting attention from the national U18 manager along with Lewis Martin, which again is massive credit to the boys.

Ryan Williamson and Lewis Martin: Scotland call ups

"A special mention also has to go to Cameron Gill, our 15 year old goalkeeper, who has performed brilliantly not only with our U17 team but with our U20 team this season. Cameron who has been with the club since he was eleven and was the subject of a bid from an SPL club in the summer, however turned them down as he is happy here, trains regularly with Brian Potter our first team goalkeeping coach during his day release from school and sometimes even trains with our first team".

Cammy Gill is congratulated by Brian Potter

At the younger age levels the coaches have continued to show a fantastic commitment and desire to produce our own players and it gives them great satisfaction to see them playing first team football. Stephen named the big influencers:-

"Guys like Grant Petrie and Hamish French along with the others, take great credit for producing players like Shaun Byrne, Scott Mercer and Ross Drummond and guiding them through many years in the Youth Department. Cold, wet, winter nights at Kinross make it worthwhile to see players in the first team.

Dunfermline Athletic U14s 2013-2014
Dunfermline U17 Squad

"Further down the line we have had Scott Sutherland and John-James Henderson represent Scotland at U15 level, again another remarkable achievement considering we were put down a games programme this season for not producing enough players in the last five years.

Victory shield selection

"We have also had players invited to Premiership clubs for training during the year, Manchester Utd, Blackburn Rovers and Everton (Scott will be invited to Everton in the New Year.)

"For me this demonstrates that the players are happy to continue to develop at Dunfermline Athletic, they are content in the environment we create and can see the pathway to the first team which is more important to them than where we are playing each week. There will always be exceptions however, as two of our young players were sold to Celtic and Hearts this year".

2013-14 U15

The Dunfermline Athletic  junior programme is headed by Dougie Coulston, and this is also continuing to do very well, with local boys clubs benefiting from the initiatives that have put in place. Stephen contined:-

"Boys club coaches, parents and players understand and respect what we are trying to do for the local area. We have development centres running every week at Pitreavie and players come along to us for added coaching whilst continuing with their own boys clubs. We have worked hard over the last few years to enhance the perception of the club where players now enjoy more positive experiences. I firmly believe we are getting there.

"When we identify a player who we would like to sign, we do enough homework on them so that we can commit to signing them for a minimum of three years, when they are eligible from the age of 10.  Dougie and I do not believe in releasing players aged 10, 11 or 12. Not only is it morally wrong, it is not something a kid of such a young age should have to deal with. We are proud of the fact that when we started this programme under Dougie, we haven't released a player in almost three years at the younger age groups."

DAFC U13s 2013-2014

Stephen will continue to organise trips to England for his young squads next year, which provide them with invaluable experience of what it takes to play for a professional club.  "To date we have visited and played against Manchester City and Bolton twice, Everton, Sunderland and Newcastle". Stephen is also confident they will be invited to the Repton festival again in August for the third time.

Our players at the Etihad before the game

The players in the Youth Department finished off the year with a fundraising event, with bag packing at Asda, Halbeath Road on Saturday 21st December, raising funds to enable future trips away.

Stephen would like to thank Dunfermline Athletic Youth Director Craig McWhirter for his continued support, also all of our sponsors, players, parents and coaches for making this an enjoyable and productive year.

DAFC U11 & U12 2013-14

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