AUFA and NASA- Not two organisations you would normally associate with each other but on closer inspection, the AUFA and NASA have a lot in common.
They have four initials – we have four initials, they shoot for the stars – our stars shoot for the moon, and in similar fashion to Neil Armstrong’s statement when first stepping on the moon ‘That’s one small step for man… one giant leap for mankind’, we could maybe use ‘That’s one great summer for young players…one giant leap for the AUFA.’
By Marc Roseblade
The playing season may not have started for the majority of the playing staff at the football academy yet, but here we are talking about the successes already made by a handful of young stars that have emerged over the summer to blossom and grow into regular starters and squad players for the Ayr United senior team.
Matches against Motherwell, Partick Thistle, Bolton and Glentoran over the space of seven days allowed Mark Roberts and Davie White to run the rule over the youngsters, after deciding that pre-season would be the ideal chance to offer them the chance to shine in a senior playing environment in order to try and grab a starting spot.
In the opening four matches we have seen Mark Shankland, Robbie Crawford, Alan Murdoch, Jackson Longridge (pictured), Bobby McLatchie, Steven Hutchison, Aaron Wylie and Roddy Paterson all managing pitch time. Add this to ex Academy stars Ross Robertson and Jonathan Tiffoney being regular starters, we have nearly a full top 11 of players that we can claim as our own, now playing as part of Mark Roberts top 17. In the match against Partick alone, Ayr finished the game with seven Academy players and one ex-Academy player on the field.
The talents of these players has been no surprise to the coaching staff at the Academy who have been championing the players for some time now but it’s been under Ayr’s new manager, Mark Roberts and Davie White that the players have been given a real chance to show their metal in a professional environment.
Mark Roberts told us about the youngsters:” The younger players are buying into the belief that we need to keep our shape in order to become a team that are hard to beat. For what they are, they’re forward thinking players.”
“They’re all doing the hard work when required and couldn’t ask any more from them. I’ve been delighted with the way they have coped in the games. The Partick match especially was taken in order to put all these guys under the spotlight and they were brilliant.”
Mark Shankland also spoke of the past week saying:” It’s been great being part of the senior team and although I haven’t scored yet, it’s brilliant just being able to get out there and play my part and as long as I keep training and learning from the more experienced players beside me, I can only get better.”
“Training has been good and with Davie [White] around, he obviously has an idea of how all the younger guys play due to his time with the Academy. Davie being around has made the transition between Academy football and senior football much easier for us all and his influence has definitely helped us younger guys get better opportunities to play at this level.”
There can be no doubt that Davie’s dual role has benefits for the AUFA. Younger players will get the opportunities to show what they can do thanks to Davie still holding the Head of Youth role but ultimately they have to be good enough to earn that spot.
To see so many of these talented young players making the grade so early in their career is exactly what the staff at the AUFA have been working towards for a number of years, and hopefully they can keep up the good work and continue to force their way into Mark Roberts first team for the foreseeable future.
They have tasted this level of football and they want MORE!