A Q&A of sorts…

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Our first in a series of Q&A following the subject of coaching we are joined by a coach from the world of Scottish football.

First of all let us know a little about yourself?

Robert Watson, Assistant Manager at Hamilton Academical Womens Football Club. I am a UEFA B Licenced coach and have been involved with Women’s football for over 10 years at every level of the game.

So how did you become a coach?

I have always loved football since I was very young but I got into coaching almost by accident if I’m completely honest. I had finished playing and was done with football after a couple of bad experiences.

I had been involved in the music industry at the time when friend of mine was given the opportunity to manage Motherwell Ladies first ever senior womens team in 2008, he asked me to come in as their goalkeeping coach. I started doing my SFA coaching badges and I had such a positive experience that year it re-ignited my passion for the game. After that first season at Motherwell we moved to East Kilbride Thistle where I became Assistant as well as taking the goalkeepers and it has snowballed from there.

After East Kilbride I moved to Glasgow Girls and was part of the staff that reached the Scottish Cup Under 17s final and getting the core of that progressive team into what is now SWPL 2, eventually taking over as head coach for 6 months. I decided to move on from Glasgow after almost 4 years as things didn’t really pan out as I wanted or expected, I was offered the role at Accies almost straight away which has meant I’ve coached in every division of senior womens football in Scotland.

Accies has given me some incredible experiences and for that I am incredibly grateful, I am now active as part of the South West Regional squads supporting goalkeepers and developing the techniques centre which I also mirror at the Central region. I look back over 10 years and think what an amazing journey, far more than I could ever have expected walking onto the astro when it all began at Motherwell, the game has evolved and changed so much during this time I have been involved.

You mentioned your time playing, what was that like?

I was a goalkeeper pretty much the whole time I was a player apart from the odd occasion filling in at full back. I started out at Lesmahagow Boys Club playing with school friends, we had a fantastic side so many talented players have come from the area, a few progressing to pro-youth, professional and even some fantastic careers at junior level football.

Following that I spent time at Kirkfield United, unfortunately I had a bad experience there due to the coach overseeing the team as the attitude of the team was very much old school. The stand out memory was him shouting “out!!” constantly, the total opposite to the atmosphere we had at Lesmahagow. He had his first-choice goalkeeper which of course I understood but at 13/14 years old all I wanted to do was play and felt I wasn’t given the chance I deserved.

I left them for my own village team, Blackwood, where if I’m honest we weren’t very good but we were like the black sheep team. My dad and another parent took the side, we gave all the local boys who weren’t fancied by other clubs a place to play and looking back that was an incredible thing to do. They weren’t great coaches but they made sure everyone got game time and most of all encouraged us to enjoy football. These two experiences have always stuck with me within 18 months of each other.

After Blackwood I was asked back to Kirkfield to trial where they didn’t take me at my age group as they felt their existing goalkeeper was better. 2 days later I got a call from the coach of 2 age groups above saying he couldn’t believe I wasn’t taken and asked me to go there. I was 15 playing at Under 17s level so there was a pretty big jump in terms of physicality of the game but I eventually got my chance following a goalkeeper injury and never looked back. A couple of the players were picked up by Dundee Utd and both Rangers and Celtic watched me but felt I wasn’t tall or physical enough but they would keep an eye on me.

Unfortunately the interest wasn’t taken much further and despite a few trials at other pro-youth sides it never quite happened but that 18 months there was the best football I played. I could see their point as much as it hurt me. I was 5ft8 in an age group that contained people like Allan McGregor and David Marshall!

After youth football I played at a good level of amateur. I was asked to go junior a few times but the unquestionable love had sort of fizzled out after youth level and I was happy training once a week and playing at a good level on a Saturday. My interests had started moving into music at the time the team imploded with some poor signings and a fall out with one of the coaches who I felt was a bad influence and poorly organised. I hadn’t always played at a high level but I enjoyed my football when it was organised and the team had a common goal. The people that came into Lanark weren’t and I finished up.

Although playing 5s and 7s with friends and in leagues, I basically had 3 years away from football before getting the call to go into Motherwell.

Back to coaching who would you name as great players to work with?

That’s a really difficult question as I’ve worked with so many good ones. Jade Lindsay who is with Accies just now has the little bit of arrogance I like in a player. I loved Courtney McAvoy (now at Hearts) who was a bit of a maverick and absolutely hilarious. There was never a dull moment with her around.

Deborah McLeod is perhaps the most underrated I’ve worked with. She has a bit of a love hate relationship with football sometimes but she’s the kind of understated midfielder I really like. She reads the game so well and keeps it simple.

Gill Inglis as well has been an incredible Captain at Accies in my time there. She’s a full back but has played just about every position apart from goalkeeper and never once complained. You couldn’t get a more dedicated player. She was a huge part of winning SWPL 2 in 2016.

The first player I worked with that made me go “wow” was a girl called Lyndsey Holmes who came into motherwell from celtic. She wasn’t getting any game time and just wanted to play, a big part of her game was that she moved so quickly with the ball and it was like it was glued to her toe. For our first season we finished second in the old Division 2 East and if I’m honest we played to our strengths which was simply to give her the ball. She moved onto Airdrie and them Cumbernauld Colts and one of the first things I did at Glasgow Girls was bring her in. She was a huge part in our success and a brilliant role model for the young players we had at the time.

I really enjoyed working with Lauren Coleman at Glasgow Girls as well. She was never the most technical player but for sheer desire and will to win you wouldn’t want anyone else. She was a centre forward when I first got to the club playing in the 1st Team and Under 17s but she was like a battering ram up front. The first time I saw her she was chucking around players 10 years older than her in a 2nd division game when it really was a bit of a kicking match. Her fearless approach was just incredible. She naturally developed as she got older though and in my opinion an excellent central midfielder, physically strong, good in the air, good range of passing and can score from distance. She worked so hard on her touch and game knowledge. We did lots of work on her passing to improve it and she hardly ever missed a session, an overwhelming desire to to simply improve all the time. She had great confidence in her ability as well, we played Falkirk (who are now stirling) in the Scottish Cup last 16 and she lined one up in the last minute. The score was 1-1 and I’m thinking just stick it in the corner and we will take extra time. Lauren steps up and fires one from about 35 yards that the keeper tips onto the bar and we follow up to score and win 2-1 to play Hibs in the quarter final, It was an amazing moment, Lauren was brilliant all afternoon against Emma Lyons who was the opposition captain at the time. We didn’t always see eye to eye and had some huge arguments but you if you gave her a job to do on the pitch she got on with it. I’m glad to see she is still starting in SWPL 2 and without doubt she has the qualities to play in a higher division. I am hopeful that one day I get to work with her again as she has really matured as a player.

If I had to pick the best though in terms of working with 3 times a week and match then I cant see past Amy Anderson. The growth in her as a player has been unbelievable in the last few years. Not only is she technically gifted but she really understands football. She is still only 20 as well and has a hell of a lot of time to grow and mature as a player. She came through with the generation of players like Erin Cuthbert who is now at Chelsea and picked up a bad knee injury which maybe curtailed her chances at 19s but she has been an incredible player for Accies.

I remember going up to Inverness in 2016 in the SWPL 2 run in and it was a simple must win. We started well but lost a soft goal and while we were a goal ahead at half time, we weren’t really playing well and the manager gave them a bit of a roasting. The second half Amy just took the game by the scruff of the neck and dominated for the full 45 minutes. She was unplayable and for me that was the match I saw a shift in her that year to taking responsibility and driving a performance from her team. One thing I would like her to to add to her game is more goals and get in the box more often but in my opinion she has all the attributes to be a top player if she keeps working hard and making the sacrifices to get there.

Who has been your greatest influence in football?

Player wise my hero as a kid was Andy Goram who, as a Rangers fan, I idolised. The run Rangers had in 92 in the European Cup I’m just old enough to remember where he seemed to have world class performance after world class performance particularly the away match against Leeds. I also remember the 1-0 victory we had against Celtic in 96 where it looked like nothing would beat him saving a very late penalty.

I have a love affair with central midfielders as well.

I loved watching Gheorge Hagi in particular and that wonderful Romania side in the 94 World Cup, he glided around the pitch and never scored simple goals. I think the modern game lacks those kind of maverick, on the edge of madness type players. The best player I ever saw in the flesh was Juan Roman Riquelme who played for Villarreal at Ibrox. It was the best individual performance I’ve ever seen from a player, no one got near him and quite how we came out with a draw that night I will never know.

From a coaching point of view I have great admiration for people like Arrigo Sacchi who never played professional football but is considered one of Italys greatest coaches. He took over Fabio Capello’s magnificent Milan side and took them to new heights including back to back european cups and was one of the first coaches to use things like shadowing for passages of play. Really ahead of his time.

I have a big affinity for Jurgen Klopp as well. I love how he comes across, how passionate he is and how he approaches games with it being about high intensity and playing on the front foot. It really harks back to the 50s and 60s type football.

I appreciate what someone like Guardiola has done obviously but I’m not a huge fan of a playing philosophy fully focused around possession. If I’m totally honest I found it quite slow at times while and undoubted great side. Personally I want to see teams attack quickly, break lines and create 1v1 or 2v1, be brave to try things in the final third, go for the kill. Of course you can’t do that all the time which is where I admire the defensive traits of someone like Mourinho.


I try to pick up things from other sports as well particularly American Football. I find the play books and the how all the different coaches interlink and work together in huge squads really interesting. Accies manager Gary Doctor has got me more and more into that, he loves it.

On that note I would have to say Gary has been the biggest influence in terms of coaches I have worked with. His attention to detail and planning sessions is brilliant. The biggest thing I think I have learned from him is challenging yourself to give a great variety in your session as players can get bored if they see the same features all the time. We have a good working relationship and I love attending training every week with him.

What is your philosophy in terms of player development?

I firmly believe that players must play as much as they can at the highest level they can.

I have to admit it is my bugbear in Womens football in Scotland. There are lots of talented players sitting on a bench getting 10/15 minutes here and there after the team are comfortably winning. What development does that give them? Players are going to get better being put into positions that force them to make decisions in real time and with consequence of winning or losing.

I can understand players being overawed when the badge of a big team is stuck in front of them. I would always challenge those players to ask themselves questions. Will I play regularly? Will I be given opportunity? Would another so called smaller club actually be better for me?

Players want immediate success. Spend time earning your stripes playing then get your move to the big club when you can command a starting position. At the end of the day when a player looks back will they say I sat on a bench or I played the sport I loved at the highest level I could?

From a youth point of view players need training sessions that challenge them and force them to make decisions. Children learn at such a fast rate so the more repetition they do the more they learn and the better they get at it.

I see some training sessions where the coach screaming and shouting at kids and I’m thinking what is that child going to learn? Sending them for a run round the park as punishment just encourages them to hate running. For me its all about preparation, even if it’s two key points you want to get across to the kids that night. The sessions has to be constructive, challenging and you have to be support in a positive manner. Putting fear into children if they make a wrong decision means they will stop making decisions, as a result they will learn nothing.

How are things going on at Accies?

Its been a difficult season so far but I suppose that could be expected after all the success we have had in the last 2 years. We have effectively re-built the 1st Team and Performance section in that time. The challenge for us to establish ourselves back in SWPL 1 but it a very tough league. With only 8 teams there’s not a huge margin for error but outside of Glasgow City, Hibernian and to an extent Celtic there is very little difference between the other five teams.

We haven’t really ever had an out and out centre forward which as a consequence means we don’t score many goals but we are working hard on bringing someone in. We have a wonderful group and you couldn’t ask them to work any harder. Recently we have brought in Kodie Hay, Nina Fitzsimmons and Katie Rice in the close season which adds great quality. We just have to find a way to get our noses in front as I believe we can win games at this level and belong in this division.

Do you have any ambitions beyond your current role?

Personally I would like to get involved at National level either in 17s, 19s or maybe the A Squad. To represent your country is the pinnacle of your sport in my opinion. I am looking forward to starting my UEFA A Licence soon as well and from there if I move on from Accies I would like to manage in the SWPL 1 and as the years progress I would love to get into the Super League in England or even into Sweden or Denmark. I really enjoyed visiting Brondy and FC Rosengard a couple of years ago so that would appeal to me as well. I have ambitions but its about building things the right way, walk before I can run. I have loads to learn and luckily I’m not arrogant enough to sit and pretend I know everything.

Finally, would there be any sort of advice you could offer any aspiring coaches out there that are just beggining journey?


The biggest piece of advice I can give young coaches starting out is volunteer at a club, get experience working with another coach and be prepared to make mistakes and most importantly learn from them.

As much as you want players to learn you also need to learn and develop as well and you wont get that unless you do it through experience. Also get on the SFA coaching badges as quickly as possible. they are a fantastic resource and full of ideas. The 1.1 to 1.3 on both children and youth pathways are fantastic and even if you don’t plan on going any further I would say these are a must as the players you are coaching very well may go further.

Massive thank you to Robert for taking timeout from his busy schedule to share such wonderful detail, as ever we hope that some of what has talked about will serve you well in the future and perhaps be inspirational in whatever role you have in football and player development. Until next time.

The Interview

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Things have been a bit quiet around here so I am excited to report I have went out and recruited some coaches to write about what they love doing, a fundamental part of coaching is having a passionate interest in what they do so my hope is everyone that kindly takes their time to read some of the text will benefit in some way. Watch this space!

P.S if you are interested in writing something please get in touch and I can organise a chat!

FBA Voting

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Good afternoon,

I have decided to put the blog forward for some voting, I went to the https://www.footballbloggingawards.co.uk/ event awards a couple of years ago, the place called Hotel Football no less which was an amazing experience.

Through the feedback I have received there is an indication that some of the stuff I write here has made a difference. Please tweet the following text 🙂

I am voting in @theFBAs for @gillenreid in the category #FBAinfluencer #FBAs

Lets see what happens eh?

A blogging thought

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I found myself recently talking in twitter and actually potentially making sense, so the following text is simply thoughts. If you want to take anything on board that’s good, if you don’t well that’s okay aswell.

Personally I focus on getting my group to give a good account of themselves, from a coaching perspective a positive result is just a nice bye product. Unless you are in a position of employment it can be considered a thankless task, this may be the case but the key is to maintain perspective and not let anything go to your head. I always loved the fact that over time you watch your players grow and develop, maybe they will be promoted or perhaps progress to the next stage in football. Taking pride in the fact that you were a big factor in their development, pointing them in the right direction.

I remember listening to a podcast once where there was a conversation with a Valencia coach, the subject was long term development. Any concept the time scale to set to 60 sessions. Yeah, I always focused on the fact we are simply there to point them in the right direction. It helps you to remain grounded aswell.



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A wonderfully insightful interview, showing important aspects of coaching and the value of experience.

Podcast Invitation

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Good evening

As you may be aware I am working on the idea of a podcast, this was born out of other coaches doing something similar of course. What I wanted to do differently was to issue an open invitation, the idea is that every coach has their own philosophy and approach. Each one of those should be respected (within reason) and I wanted to provide a platform for those ideas to be shared. So if you are interested in having that conversation and happy to be on soundcloud let me know on @gillenreid


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For our lovely audience would you be kind enough to introduce yourself?

Sure, I’m Michael McDougall, I work as first team coach of the women’s section of Greenock Morton FC.

A coach you say? Tell us more?

Yeah so after spending a few years at Glasgow City I moved onto Morton to link back up with former City goalkeeper Laura Williamson who is women and girls development officer, the first team currently ply their trade in SWFL Division 2 West.

So what’s going on at the club at the moment?

Morton is a club that’s really going places, the structure is now complete with a pathway from small kids right up to a senior team. This is the first year we’ve had a senior team at the club on the women’s and girls side and we’re sitting top of the league halfway through the season which is fantastic and a testament to the level of work our players put in for us.

Do you have any success stories from the club?

The vast majority of the squad is made up of players who have come all the way through the age groups at Morton which I think is a massive success, I would try name a few but I’ll forget someone haha, we’ve added in a few older/more experienced players which provides a balance and has helped everyone kick on to develop other parts of their game, so I think that while we obviously want to continue as we have been and win the league. The year has already been a success in my opinion because of what those players have achieved in terms of personal and team growth.

How about yourself? What was it that inspired you to become a coach?

I was fortunate enough to have played with some very talented players and be coached by some great coaches. Unfortunately a lot of serious knee injuries held me back and so when I finally accepted it was time to stop kidding myself on I just wanted to coach, it kept me involved in football then it turned out I was half decent at it and I developed a real passion for helping to develop young footballers.

Do you have any plans for the future?

My plans are to continue my own learning, there is always things a coach can learn regardless of how many courses and qualifications they do it’s the training pitch that matters, nobody is perfect and nobody has all the answers because football is always evolving. From a team point of view I am really happy where I am, I wasn’t enjoying my football for a while but I have a fantastic partnership with Laura and the opportunity to work with her again was too good to turn down, most importantly thanks to the players willingness to learn and work rate I’ve found my passion for coaching again.

What would your piece of advice for any young player coming through the ranks?

Where do I start! The 1.5-2 hours a couple of nights isn’t where you training begins and ends, you have to continually work on all aspects of your game in your own time as well, always looking to improve. You have to make sacrifices, if you want to be the best player you can possibly be you need to be willing to give up some things for the end result.

What are your thoughts on the national teams performance in the Euros in terms of how the youth culture has benefited the team?

I’ve admittedly been quite vocal about the performances, but I think in general terms the country being there will have a massive effect on what our youths will want to be. They’ll see Caroline Weir, Fiona Brown, Erin Cuthbert, Chloe Arthur and players of that ilk and hopefully be more determined to work and to become the next line of young players that are coming into these teams. The result/outcomes were not what anyone wants to see but that’s something that can be changed over time, but who does not want to represent their country on the international stage, playing the sport we love?

Massive thanks to Michael for taking some time out and have this conversation, great to hear the club are doing so well and YFS wish Morton and Michael every success.

Curneen on America

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Here at YFS we speak to a variety of people, all walks of life and who perform all sorts of roles for the sake of the beautiful game, we were lucky enough to have someone different along to have a conversation. Gary Curneen is the current head women’s soccer coach at Cal State University, Bakersfield, and the founder of Modern Soccer Coach Education. His role is full-time in nature at a college in the US who compete at the Division I level. When asked about the role itself “like most people in the game I am passionate about developing players, teams, to succeed on and off the field”

I was keen to understand a little bit more about how the girls game operates in America and how it compares to the rapidly growing equivalent in Scotland

“I’m not familiar with Scottish landscape so can’t compare. Girls game is huge in the States and the players are fortunate enough to have huge amount of opportunities with both games and training. The college game is the destination for most top players and it becomes a full-time environment with training every day and access to top facilities and full-time coaches”

He originally played in the US, once his playing career was completed he continued life at a coaching capacity for an additional two years “I originally was going to go into the business world and corporate America but got cold feet. My college coach gave me an opportunity to stay on and help him out, along with getting my masters in business and administration and I took it”

After settling into the role he mentioned that “I realized I had a completely wrong perception of what coaching entailed. I got introduced to tactics, systems, training models, science, psychology and was hooked” he is now owner of a UEFA A licence thanks to the services of the FA in Ireland.

Gary has added to this by writing a book Modern Soccer Coach 2014 adding his own take on “What sets the greatest coaches apart in today’s game and how to create a culture of excellence within a program”

So overall the girls game appears to be rich in opportunities, in Scotland the girls game is catching up with more and more clubs linking up with their mens equivalent, more and more work is being done creating the pathway from the younger age groups all the way through to the senior team “I think cultures in the US and UK could learn a lot from each other. Players in the US excel in the physical side of the game and I think with more resources and funding in the women’s game in the UK, it will allow Scotland to continue to excel”

Adding to that he also mentioned that he had recently came along to have a look at the women’s game in Scotland “I was there in February and visited Hibs and Celtic ladies teams. Really enjoyed it and was very impressed by the level and the coaching. Hopefully I can come back more often”

Big thanks to Gary for taking time to answer some questions that I had, hopefully it will prove to be an intriguing read.

Morton’s Youth Development

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We are seeing more and more prospects emerge from the fully reconstructed academies of Scotland, former full timer Derek Anderson leads the way as Head of Youth Academy, tasked with identifying suitable individuals to be added to the ever expanding ranks. In terms of qualified persons Anderson secured himself a UEFA “A” Licence and has playing experience with Hibs and Kilmarnock.

As part of the academies redevelopment Director Warren Hawke, who has a degree in business management, will handle all things finance related to allow all energy to be spent on the important subject of football.

The 26 staff members are there now to support this development, so the key in terms of pointing these players in the right direction is dedication. Work behind the scenes has resulted in the full development of a player pathway, which meets the SFA demanded criteria.

The fruits of their labour consist of Ben Armour, who the next best thing to come out of Cappielow, following his signing for the club September 2016 from Queens Park he made his first appearance for the current development team the subsequent April time against Dumfermline, the 19 year old striker recently signed a 6 months extension to his existing deal with Greenock Morton to turn professional and keep him an active member until January 2018. Armour he known for his instinctive finishing and being in the right place at the right time, such attributes present a nightmare for the most talented of defenders.

Another prospect Jamie Mcgowan signed on full time along with striker Armour, the 20 year old paisley born shot stopper impressed during his handful of appearances for the first team earning himself a full time spot. McGowan was rewarded with an additional year on top of his existing deal, breaking into the first team 2016 against Spartans after the first team goalkeeper suffering a nasty case of concussion.

First team manager was questioned on the keeping the players onboard

“In pre-season they’ll come with me and be with my group, as will Jai Quitongo, and then it’s really up to them after that in terms of how far they push themselves and how much they want it.”

So the clubs recent reshaping have offered up some talented individuals, so the prospects of a new  generation of players coming through the newly established pathway created is an exciting one.

Perhaps the greatest of them all?

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As you can tell I am a great fan of Messi, they shouldn’t really even think of making comparisons as he is not only unbelievable in terms of his ability, his attitude and conduct is on par. See below for another demonstration of his skill.