McGhee concerns over ‘Project Brave’

Motherwell manager Mark McGhee claims it would be a “disgrace” if his club are excluded from the elite ranks of Scottish youth football.

The Scottish Football Association’s ‘Project Brave’ blueprint, which was leaked in the press at the weekend, argues for a two-tier youth league with an eight-team elite.

The SFA has formed a working party featuring several clubs to take forward ideas first formulated by former performance director Brian McClair, who quit in July and is still to be replaced.

Clubs such as Motherwell, Dundee United, Partick Thistle and Dundee are believed to fear they would not be selected for the elite set-up and would consequently struggle to attract the country’s best young players.

Scotland assistant manager McGhee, whose club won the SFA Youth Cup last season, said: “Without giving it a lot of thought, there are two points come to mind.

“One is, a fundamental part of our model here is producing young players to move on to maintain the club. To guarantee the long-term survival of the club, we need to do that, we need to be allowed to do that.

“And the second one is, I would challenge any team in the top division in Scotland to show that they are playing more young players coming through their academy than we are.

“We are putting our money where our mouth is, we are putting players in the team.

“And if our ability to do that is affected in any way by any new change of tiers or whatever, then I think it will be a disgrace.”

Fan-owned Motherwell have played five of their Youth Cup-winning side in their first team this month – David Ferguson, Jack McMillan, Chris Cadden, Ross MacLean and Dom Thomas.

It is understood clubs were informed of the plans by SFA chief executive Stewart Regan on October 27 and initially told a consultation period would end in November with the criteria for selection decided in December and bids for elite status invited in June. The timescale is now uncertain after several raised objections, while it remains unclear whether clubs will be allowed to vote on the proposals.

Some clubs also fear the current SFA performance indicators for academies are flawed, with one example being that the same amount of credit is given for players playing on loan at lower-league clubs as for at Premiership first teams.

The SFA working party includes representatives from Celtic, Rangers, Aberdeen, Hearts, Ross County, Hibernian, Hamilton and Annan. Other ideas being considered include the replacement of the SPFL Development League, which is predominantly for under-20s players, with a more mixed reserve league with experienced players alongside young prospects.

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