The SFA's performance manager recalled the conversation six years ago that sparked the idea, the resistance his plans met, and the day the pilot project started. He remembered the difficulty securing funding, the fraught negotiations with the schools, and the hours and hours of scouting.
He might not have been recognised for his six years of toil, often in the face of suspicion and contempt, but the eminence grise of the project is not fuelled by praise, rather by a belief that what he has been doing was for the greater good.
"It's almost a no-brainer," the 52-year-old Invernessian explains. "We're combining the best talent with the best coaches and giving them the best opportunity to achieve. Sure, there are so many things that can go wrong with young players, but there are so many things that can go right, too."
Certainly, any failures cannot be attributed to a lack of preparation. Mackintosh reckons that his seven members of staff watched somewhere in the region of 3000 youngsters between January and March of this year alone, before assessing in excess of 750 applications. Consequently, 105 kids – including five girls – will enrol on a four-year programme across seven different schools over the next few days, with individual intakes ranging from 11 to 19 pupils.
Schools have been asked to timetable the daily 90-minute football sessions in the morning, with Mondays dedicated to recovery after weekend games, Tuesday to Thursday used to hone technical and tactical skills, and Fridays assigned for individual practise. The onus is on the pupils to make up for the missed academic classes in their own time but even that has been taken into account in the rigorous selection criteria. "It has been about work-rate, commitment and motivation, rather than just the ability to kick a football," says Mackintosh. "We looked at school reports, interviewed the parents and the kids and these are highly-motivated young people."
The attitude of the youngsters was one of four As that the coaches looked for. Ability is an obvious one, but less so, perhaps, is awareness – kids with good decision-making to complement their technical skills – while the demand for athleticism is more about balance and co-ordination than size alone. Now that the time has come for the seven "football teachers" to begin actually working with the youngsters, Mackintosh expects them to find a group of elite players not only with impressive technique but also an aptitude and hunger to develop.
His confidence is rooted in the success of a programme piloted at Falkirk's Graham High School in 2007. Launched quietly after an exchange between Mackintosh and Jim Fleeting, the SFA's director of youth development, it has not only produced Craig Sibbald, a first-team regular with Falkirk at the age of 16, and Paul McMullen, who is making an impact with Celtic's under-17s, but has also gone some way to changing perceptions. Clubs who were initially askance at the notion of the governing body working with "their" players have softened their stance, partly due to the realisation that they need the financial support and partly because the SFA's performance strategy has armed them with a mandate.
"The support we've had from the clubs has been amazing and the whole thing has been a real leap of faith for the SFA, for the parents and the kids, and for the school as well," he said.
Not to mention Mackintosh himself but, then, he has previous for making bold decisions. A PE teacher by training, he worked in further education for 20 years and was a respected Highland League player and assistant manager, working with Sergei Baltacha at Inverness Caledonian, before being asked to coach an Aberdeen development squad that included, among others, Richard Foster. It was a secure, straightforward existence. Then he turned 40 and was head-hunted by Ross County to become their head of youth.
"I look back on it and think I must have been off my head," he says. "I was a senior lecturer, living within 50 metres of the college, was well-paid and I enjoyed the job and I was leaving secure employment and going to a club 50 miles away in the first division on the brink of bankruptcy. I just decided if I didn't do it then I never would."
By the time he left to become a regional performance manager for the SFA, County's academy was thriving, but it is only now that youngsters such as Gary Mackay-Steven are beginning to make a name at senior level, illustrating Mackintosh's insistence that patience is needed if his latest plans are to pay off.
"Youth development has to be long-term and the clubs have to realise that; invest in a 12-year-old, be patient and get the reward. Of course, there are no guarantees, but what I'd really like is for performance schools to just become what we do here in our country. It won't be new, it won't be something extra, it will just be embedded that if you want to become a top player in Scotland you really need to go to one of these schools.
"I'll be honest, there was a point I didn't think it would happen, but now it's here I'm really excited and just hope we grasp the opportunity."