This summer’s FIFA World Cup has already proven to be one of the best ever.
After witnessing so many exciting games, goals, drama and fantastic team achievements, I know it will live in my memory forever – and we’re only half way through!
I’ve personally worked with eight players currently featuring for the Netherlands and Belgium in the quarter-finals and it’s a nice feeling to watch them perform at the highest level.
Belgium started their elite player strategy back in 2000 and now have a very strong squad of players.
It’s also interesting to note that most of their squad left Belgium as youngsters to improve their development elsewhere in Europe.
It was therefore great to see Ryan Gauld seal an exciting move to Sporting Club de Portugal earlier this week.
As an 18-year-old, you need to improve yourself every day and I think it’s great that he will be training and playing for a club with a long history of developing world class players.
We have also seen other young Scottish players move to develop their career.
Jay Fulton recently made his English Premier League debut for Swansea City whilst Ryan Fraser has played a lot of football for Bournemouth in the English Championship.
Matthew Kennedy spent some time on loan at Tranmere Rovers and MK Dons and will now push for a place in the first-team squad at Everton and the same can be said of Jack Grimmer of Fulham, who picked up some game time on loan at Port Vale.
There were also encouraging signs at club level in Scotland with more than 75 players making their first-team debut last season.
Liam Henderson of Celtic, Andrew Robertson from Dundee United and Aberdeen’s Cammy Smith are just three examples of young players now playing at the top clubs in the Scottish Premiership.
It’s all about game time and individual development.
It was pleasing to see the clubs in Scotland have reacted very positively to a recent survey conducted by the Scottish FA with regards to our performance strategy.
This year, the boys’ under-17s and the girls’ under-17s and under-19s all qualified for their respective UEFA European Championship finals with the boys’ under-17s reaching the semi-finals of the competition for the first time ever in May.
The boys’ under-16 squad also won the Sky Sports Victory Shield last year – the first outright win for Scotland in 15 years.
These are encouraging signs but we are confident we are on the right path with our strategy.
For now, I am very much looking forward to the quarter-finals of the World Cup getting under way with a special interest in the Netherlands who face Costa Rica, a country with only four million people and their star player Brian Ruiz from PSV Eindhoven.
Small countries, comparable in size to Scotland, like Costa Rica, Switzerland and Uruguay have done themselves proud at the finals and this is hugely encouraging for Gordon Strachan and his team to believe that qualification for EURO 2016 and the FIFA World Cup in 2018 is possible.
We’ve had two days now without any World Cup matches and I can’t wait to switch my telly back on this evening!