The Scottish FA's new Regional Performance Schools offer a brighter future for Scottish football, according to SFA Performance Director Mark Wotte.
Over 100 of Scotland's most talented under-12s footballers have been selected for the schools - located in seven towns or cities across Scotland - where they will receive specialist football training as part of a specially-developed curriculum.
The ambitious new project, which launched in August, represents the crown jewels of the SFA’s Performance Strategy and the governing body hopes is will help them realise their 2020 vision by regularly qualifying for major tournaments in the future.
“This is about creating world-class players to improve the success of the future national team squads,” said Wotte, speaking at the first ever Regional Performance Schools Festival at the Toryglen Football Centre in Glasgow last week.
“The commitment, not only of the players and clubs but also of the parents, is going to be very important for the future of Scottish football.
“We can only go upwards. We have recognised that there are elements in Scottish football that need to be improved but the Scottish FA has made a large commitment to the Regional Performance Schools to improve elite player development.
“Also, Jim Fleeting’s team within the Scottish FA’s Football Development Department are working hard to maintain the health of the grassroots game which is so important along with the vitally important coach education courses they offer.”
Students at the seven schools - located in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee, Aberdeen, Falkirk, Kilmarnock and Motherwell - will benefit from a minimum of five extra coaching sessions a week, with the focus on individual skills development.
Performance Schools manager Neil Mackintosh believes that this extra coaching - which equates to 800 extra sessions over four years - will prove invaluable for the students' technical development and offers a brighter future for Scottish football.
“In ten years’ time, these players will be playing in an evolved game which will be faster, where you will have less time on the ball and have more movement of players around the field,” said Mackintosh.
“For me, it is really simple. We have gathered the best players in Scotland, put them together where they can challenge each other with really good coaches and with that extra practice, I think the future is bright. We have always had talented players. Now we are giving them the opportunity to become even better.
“This will translate itself into a full international setting by having players with greater technique, awareness and mentality. Now, technically we are as gifted as many countries. Our game awareness is improving and is something we are working hard on with the children right now. This is about creating the whole player.
"It is about creating a player who can cope with the demands of a future game. This is about preparing these players for that game.”