Dunfermline Athletic

Gaffer praises Youth Cup progress

Wednesday, 7th Dec 2022

Having watched Dunfermline defeat Alloa Athletic on Tuesday night, James McPake reflected on progressing in the Scottish Youth Cup.

“I enjoyed it, it was great to come and watch a game with no pressure. It was cold but getting through takes that away. You would sit in even colder temperatures if you were guaranteed a win. It is great for the football club, great for Greg Shields and his coaching staff at the under 18s and even below.

“Most of the Academy kids were there as well which is important and it was nice to see it. I love it when they experience the atmosphere of playing at East End Park. There is a crowd, they get the home dressing room. They have tasted that with the first team when they sit on the bench but to be the team going out on the pitch and playing under the lights was great.

“I thought that there was some really good stuff in the game. I know how hard Greg works them and how attentioned to detail that he is and it was good to see it. I enjoyed it.

“They shaped up like the first team and Sam Young was like a young Sam Fisher - for the first half certainly. That was why I wanted to watch the game from behind the goals, just for a different viewpoint. One of the unfortunate things of being a manager is where you get to sit and watch the game.

“We have a camera behind the goals that we watch back during the week but I like watching defensive shapes of a team, not just the defenders, from behind the goals. I changed my viewpoint for the second half and watched it from the main stand.

“You see them everyday and you see how much it means to Greg. You just want them to do well. There was some really good stuff in the game that we do see in the first team but a lot of individual stuff that you can see Greg is putting into them.

“It was a good performance and a tough one. It is no disrespect to Alloa but when Dunfermline are drawn with Alloa in the Youth Cup then it is similar to what is perceived. It is only perception because that is not the way football works. Now they are drawn away to Celtic and they will be the underdogs and again that is not always the way it works at any level of football. There was a bit of pressure on them last night and they handled that well.”

Speaking as someone who has both played and coached in the competition, James continued:-

“It is Development football but I think when it becomes the SFA Youth Cup that is the time that you want to drill into them that it is about winning. They are at a level now where the next stage is winning games of football. I am fine with it at under 8s to pre Academy when with very young ones it is all about development but there comes a point where Taylor, Andrew, Sam all of them need to know how to handle occasions. There are other younger ones but I am only using them as examples because they have featured for the first team recently.

“The Youth Cup is a great bridge where you get to feel that disappointment - they are disappointed every day they lose in training let alone a Development game but the Youth Cup is a proper competition. I know that we have won it and I know we got to the final in 2013 when Shaun Byrne and Lewis Spence played against Celtic. There is a wee bit of history at this football club with that.

“I got to either a semi final or quarter final with my Dundee team, it was Celtic that beat us that time as well and we were very unfortunate on the day. It is a great competition for the kids and it is important that they get a crowd. Important that as many people are there as possible for them and the ultimate thing with the music on in the dressing room and they can enjoy it.

“They knew, I didn’t know, but Greg quickly told me that they have Celtic away in the next round and that’s great, it’s a good tie for us. We will go to that and hopefully we go and put on a good performance and advance again.”

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