New academy director Gavin Levey wants Aberdeen to build on its reputation for providing quality loan players.
The Dons have restructured their youth set-up with Neil Simpson taking on a new role of pathways manager while Levey will replace the Gothenburg Great in heading up the academy.
Simpson and Levey will be charged with the task of ensuring promising young talent are given every chance of reaching the first team and the new academy director believes quality loans which benefit the clubs and the players involved will be a key development tool at Pittodrie.
He said: “We want to ensure our young players in the development side can get the meaningful games they need. If that cannot be achieved in the first team then we have to look at other means of exposing them to men’s football.
“They need to feel those different pressures and that is where Neil will be so important. He knows the players coming through and the two of us will spend a lot of time discussing when is the right time for players to go out and gain that experience.
“We feel our loans have been successful for players and clubs in recent years and we want to have clubs approaching us for loan players.
“If we believe a player can be more rounded by going on loan then we will look to do that at the level which is most appropriate.”
With Rangers and Celtic set to field colts teams in the Lowland League next season the Dons will be keeping a close eye on how successful the trial is.
Levey says Aberdeen remain open to any proposals which would help with their aim of developing talent.
He said: “As with every football club we’re open minded. We’ve discussed colts teams and if there came a point where we had sufficient numbers to consider joining a league we would look at it.
“If the time comes then we will see what our options are but we’re in the fortunate position next season of being able to see how colts teams develop elsewhere.”
A focus on good habits and technique
For now though, colts teams are not high on the list of priorities. Player development from the initial introduction to the academy to the first team is the main focus.
Levey’s role is an overarching one which will focus on three areas of youth development, the foundation phase, youth phase and development phase.
Each tier will focus on the specific needs of the players who are part of the academy.
Levey said: “The foundation is as the name suggests, the building blocks. We’re talking about pre-academy players from the juveniles and local boys clubs and schools who come in at the age of eight or nine and are involved in the under-10 to under-12 teams. The focus on that group is on teaching them the good habits and techniques needed.
“The youth phase is the High School and Academy age group where body shapes are changing and the focus moves to 11-a-side gamed. Helping players develop their skillset for the new physical and mental challenges which are coming their way is what we work on in that phase.
“Lastly comes the development side which is where the elevation to the professional game is the focus. Ideally players would be ready for the first team squad but it’s also the case where there are players who are not quite ready.”
The importance of succession planning
The restructuring has also resulted in Barry Robson being appointed development phase manager with overall responsibility for the under 17 and 18s, where he will be lead coach. Scott Anderson will assist Robson with the under-18s.
The club will also appoint a youth phase manager to oversee the under-13 to under-16 groups while Liam McGarry will continue to head up the club’s under-10 to under-12s and pre-academy programmes.
Levey said: “The football department has been under review for a while and we’ve been looking at a way we can maximise the staff roles and development across the academy.
“For us there’s nothing groundbreaking. It’s about being transparent and not overly complicated so that everyone knows what their role is and how we operate.
“Clubs have different models to suit their needs and our model reflects the fact we don’t carry big squads of players at the various age groups.
“Our succession planning looks at where we’ll be two years from now but it is a moving document which can change month to month.
“The first team manager is involved in that along with the academy so we’re very much working together with the same aim which is to develop first team players which Stephen Glass and Allan Russell can use.”