JIM FLEETING, the SFA Director of Youth Development, has hit back at what he describes as mud-slinging within the media towards grassroots football in Scotland.

Alan Campbell recently ran a three-part investigation for Herald Sport into the Club Academy Scotland system, where the project’s vast recruitment numbers versus the apparent lack of success for Scottish players in the SPFL and national team was called into question.

But Fleeting was quick to defend the efforts of Scottish clubs and those involved at grassroots level in the game.

“Clubs are putting more resources than ever into developing young players,” he said. “Can we improve upon what we’re doing at the minute? Yes. But who can say any different?

“Some people in the media just want to point fingers and say we aren’t producing the next Messi, but no one looks at the hard work that goes on here [at Hampden Park].

“I have the utmost admiration for those volunteers involved in our grassroots – and that’s the reality of it: volunteers. Some people write us off as if it’s some big operation but the support we receive from unpaid coaches is very beneficial for the future of these kids.”

And when asked if kids were being sold a dream by clubs, with the reality that a majority would not make it to the top of the game, Fleeting was adamant that this was the opposite of the goals for developing youth players.

“First and foremost, we want to make good people,” he said. “The last thing we want is to sell a dream: clubs should never sell kids a dream. It’s about developing these young kids into nice young people.

“My grandson told me he wanted to play for Barcelona. I said millions of kids around the world want to play for Barcelona, but am I going to tell him he can’t? Of course not.”

And Fleeting pointed to a recent meeting with former Celtic defender and Manchester United manager David Moyes, currently manager of La Liga outfit Real Sociedad who played against Celtic, St Johnstone and Livingston in pre-season, on the subject of developing young players.

“Davie was here to discuss development; we talked about the time, effort and resources being put into the game and agreed that the game wouldn’t survive without volunteers devoted to grassroots development," he said.

“Clubs have always found the best players – be it in grassroots, school football – and, in my experience, the best players always come to the top.”

And given the healthy state of the national team under manager Gordon Strachan, whose side stand a fighting chance of qualifying for the 2016 European Championships in France, Fleeting was quick to suggest the future looks bright for our youngsters.

“The negative press is just people coming out and wanting to have a go; the national team is doing well at the minute. Who knows what will happen if and when we qualify for the European Championships.”