LIFE is frequently said to begin at 40 but in Scott Booth's case that tired old cliche might just ring true.

The former Aberdeen striker reaches that landmark on Friday and does so with an exciting new challenge to throw himself into. It was announced last week that Booth will take a step back from his role as a pundit for ESPN and the BBC to take up a role as an assistant coach to the National Youth Teams, working at first with Scotland's Under-16 Victory Shield squad, but with additional responsibilities with the Scottish Football Association's newly-created network of seven performance schools.

It is a rebirth of sorts, but one which has its roots in his past. Booth, who is currently undertaking his UEFA Pro Licence and has already achieved his A and B licences, played under Mark Wotte, the SFA performance director, during a six-month loan spell at Utrecht in Holland and it is fair to say the two men hit it off. It was actually Ottmar Hitzfeld, the storied German coach, who took the player to Borussia Dortmund from Aberdeen in the first place but Booth says even he cannot match the influence of the Dutchman. The former Scotland internationalist feels blessed indeed to have landed a role like this at precisely the time the SFA appear to be getting real about player development, and at a time when he can be shown the ropes by his former mentor.

"I played under Mark for six months at FC Utrecht and I loved it," Booth told Herald Sport. "It was the first time I had crossed the border from Germany into Holland. I played up front with Michael Mols, and we had a brilliant time.

"Because Ottmar Hitzfeld moved upstairs soon after I joined, I think Mark probably did make more of an impression on me because I stayed in Holland for the next four or five years. But I really didn't see him again until about four months ago when I went to a St Mirren game and we got chatting. It was a chance meeting, but from then on I kept in contact. When this job came up, I applied for the various posititons and that is how it came up.

"Mark has very high standards. He has come into Scottish football from an outsider's background and has had various experiences as a manager. He knows what he wants, he knows what we need, and I honestly think he won't settle until he gets us back into major tournaments on a consistent basis."

The performance schools network is a huge undertaking and some have been waiting longer than others to see it fall into place. Herald Sport understands that the list of seven schools has just been finalised, with Holyrood High in Glasgow joining St John's High School in Dundee, Grange Academy in Kilmarnock, Braidhurst High School in Motherwell, Hazlehead Academy in Aberdeen, and the two original pilots at Broughton High School in Edinburgh and Graham High School in Falkirk as the sites of these elite soccer academies, where one member of SFA staff will lead a crop of specially selected youngsters from S1 through to S4, giving them two 90-minute sessions on either side of their regular school day and access to expert sports science, diet and nutritional advice.

The SFA would love to have expanded the scheme further, and the absence of a school in Fife is a particular disappointment, but funding is secure for four years at least and the appointments of seven specialised coaches will be formally announced imminently. Their names can be seen in the adjacent panel, but they include illustrious former players such as Ray McKinnon and Brian McLaughlin and highly-regarded youth coaching talents such as Ian Cathro and Gordon Craig.

Neil Mackintosh, the SFA's newly-promoted performance development manager, will oversee the whole thing and, as the man who instigated the pilot, he is delighted to see it come to fruition. Such is the garden fence mentality within Scotland that some sniping is a certainty, but Mackintosh insists the seven centres – which will be run in tandem with local authorities and several partner clubs – are a source of assistance to clubs, rather than a threat.

Mackintosh is at pains to refute the suggestion the SFA, for instance, is simply taking over the running of schemes such as Dundee United's. Instead, as theirs is phased out, the SFA will phase their own in. Celtic already have their own stand-alone schooling programme, and what arrangement they, Rangers, Partick Thistle and Queen's Park reach in relation to the academy at Holyrood High, using the Toryglen facility on the south side of Glasgow, remains to be seen.

"Maybe two years ago, we went to the government for funding, they loved our programme but couldn't fund it," Mackintosh told Herald Sport. "The SFA, before the days of the performance strategy, couldn't fund it either. Two years ago I was a wee bit down about it all but fair play to the SFA. They have invested big money in the performance structure. The skillset we were after for the coaches was football teachers. We are excited about the calibre of people we have attracted."

Booth originally applied for one of these roles, and is enthused by the task in hand. Come January, his will be the task of selecting the best 11- and 12-year-olds Scotland has to offer. "It is going to be a very, very busy few months to make sure that we get the best youths enrolled in these performance schools," he said.

Some serious swotting up is required if Scotland can ever be top of the class again.

The seven youth coaches who will spearhead Scotland's performance school revolution . . .

Ray McKinnon (Aberdeen, Hazlehead Academy)

The cultured midfielder, coveted enough to be signed by Brian Clough and Nottingham Forest at the age of 22 for £750,000, joined the SFA's technical staff last summer after a spell as player/manager of Lochee United. Now 41, McKinnon will head up a performance school in Aberdeen, where spent the season 94/95 as a player, sandwiched between two spells at Dundee United.

Ian Cathro (Dundee, St John's High School)

Aged 25, he is the wunderkind of the Scottish coaching fraternity. Said to be close with Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas, Cathro studied continental clubs and came up with the blueprint for the Dundee United's soccer academy scheme at St John's School, which has effectively been taken in-house by the SFA. Enjoys the patronage of Craig Levein, who gave him his big break when making him junior academy manager at Tannadice.

Greg Miller (Edinburgh, Broughton High School)

Son of Alex, the former Hibernian and Aberdeen manager and Scotland and Liverpool assistant coach, Greg was a jobbing midfielder who started out at his father's former clubs Hibs. The 35-year-old joins the SFA having returned to his old club in a coaching capacity after bringing his playing career to a close at Arbroath in 2006.

Ian Ross (Falkirk, Graham High School)

The former Motherwell and St Mirren midfielder was an underrated player who carved out a decent career in the top flight. Takes over the beat at Graham High School, which hosted the successful SFA pilot that has already helped bring through Falkirk FC youngster Craig Sibbald.

Brian McLaughlin (Glasgow, Holyrood High School)

Diminutive, sparky winger who came through at Celtic under Lou Macari and went on to make 75 appearances, although his career ended in the lower divisions with the likes of Queen of the South and Ayr United. Part of the Scotland Under-21 squad which made it to the European semi-finals in 1994, the 37-year-old has been part of the SFA youth system for years as player development officer.

Andy Goldie (Kilmarnock, Grange Academy)

Headed up the burgeoning community programme at Hamilton Academical, building participation to tie in with the club's artificial surface. Left for a community development role at Falkirk Council but in recent times had been back as an Under-14 coach at New Douglas Park, where he leaves with the club's best wishes.

Gordon Craig (Motherwell, Braidhurst High School)

A director of Coerver Coaching Scotland, an offshoot of a global brand dreamed up by former Dundee and Chelsea player Charlie Cooke. The Coerver website boasts that its methods are incorporated by the French Football Federation, Bayern Munich and Arsenal so the SFA are in good company.