Scottish youth football coach Christopher Abercrombie is helping the next generation of kids learn our national game.
There was something different about Scotland’s 2-0 victory over Denmark on Monday night.
It wasn’t a backs-to-the-wall, hanging on by the fingertips kind of victory likes the ones against France (twice), the Netherlands or England at Wembley in 1999.
No, this one was controlled. Flashy even. Achieved with a bit of swagger.
It was Denmark. Tenth best team in the world, Denmark. Euro 2020 semi-finalists, Denmark. Winners of every game in the group and only conceded one goal, Denmark.
Talented homegrown Scots
The talented squad that Steve Clarke has assembled is the most gifted in a generation and continues to pull Scotland out of the international wilderness it cowered in for so long.
Qualification for Euro 2020 was the first men’s appearance at a major tournament for 23 years, and now there’s genuine hope they can make it two in a row.
Most of the players in this squad hadn’t even kicked a ball when the Tartan Army descended on France 98.
Players like John McGinn, Andy Robertson and Billie Gilmour all started on Monday and are products of the Scottish grassroots youth development system.
And the production line never stops.
Every weekend, weeknight, and school break football pitches up and down the country are filled with eager youngsters learning Scotland’s national sport.
The SFA has a pathway that starts for kids at six-years-old playing 4v4, up to 18-year-olds playing the full adult game.
Football camps are organised during Easter, summer and October breaks and often double up as childcare for parents.
And it is the job of the unpaid, part-time coaches, parents and volunteers, tasked with nurturing Scotland’s future talents to play the game of football.
One such coach is Christopher Abercrombie, in charge of the 2012 boys at West Park United FC.
He began coaching in 2019 when his oldest son Theo wanted to join a football team.
When he took him along to the local club West Park, based in Bishopbriggs in the north of Glasgow, he found his son’s age group at the club struggling.
“There were so many kids but not enough coaches,” he says over Zoom from his home in Royston.
“There is not enough coaches for kids that want to play football. I’ve seen that throughout lots of teams now, all over the place. So you’ll see maybe 40 kids at a West Park team, and probably only three coaches, but you really need two coaches per team.
“I had to either come on as a coach or let kids go.”
It is a story heard too often throughout the youth game in Scotland with fear that some of the most gifted boys and girls can be lost to the game before they have even had a chance to grow their talents.
And when asked how he protects the talented eight and nine-year-olds in his team, Christopher admits it can sometimes be a struggle.
“As a coach, you need to be firm and fair. What I mean by firm, not really bad firm but you’ve got to let them know that they’re not just there for a carry-on, they’re there to learn.
“You’ll have a lot of times that the kids will want to play striker. Nearly every kid wants to be a striker when they’re growing up, so you have to tell them that the defenders are just as important as the striker,” he says with a smile.
When asked about his dad’s coaching skills, Theo, 7, says: “He makes me and the rest of the team better.”
Christopher will continue teaching the next generation of Hampden heroes that in 20 years, will be charged with giving Scotland fans another swaggering night like Monday.