NUMBERS and spreadsheets are Les Gray's life. That and youth football. Perhaps it is because both come together seamlessly in the SFA's Project Brave plan that he is so invested in the subject.

The Hamilton Accies chairman was just one member of the think tank which came up with the latest brainwave to revolutionise Scottish youth football. Chaired by consultant Alistair Gray, the strategy group also comprised his counterpart at Ross County, Roy MacGregor, Hearts director of football Craig Levein, the heads of youth at Rangers and Celtic, Craig Mulholland and Chris McCart, plus the heads of football operations at Hibs and Aberdeen, George Craig and Steven Gunn. SFA input came from Campbell Money and, for a while at least, from performance director Brian McClair.

Now it is McClair's successor Malky Mackay and his boss, SFA chief executive Stewart Regan, who are tasked with delivering the controversial scheme, which envisages a radical cut in the amount of children in the Club Academy Scotland system, with resources being targeted at a limited number of 'performance' academies.

Underpinned by the mantra of 'best v best', the scheme will create winners and losers - Premiership sides such as Partick Thistle and Motherwell may struggle to make the top tier, if not also historically excellent youth schemes like Dundee United and Falkirk (Forth Valley) - so it is little wonder that Gray has been painted as the devil incarnate in some quarters for doing everything he can to make sure that his club are on the right side of the split.

In fact various criteria will determine which applicant clubs will be admitted, factors such as a credible business plan, the number of full time staff, and a mysterious thing called Measurable Performance Outcomes (MPOs), an algorithm of sorts which scores you on what your academy actually produces. While it is legitimate to question what happens to the clubs, academies and children who don't quite make it, it is hardly Gray's fault that no other club of their size are as invested in providing playing top-level playing time to their academy products. In fact, Project Brave could be read as a challenge to the rest of Scottish football to show the same ambitions as they do.

Those who think Hamilton play the system often forget that the points in question have always been rather unfairly been weighted towards big clubs who are more likely to provide players for international youth football but not play players in their own first teams. Not to mention the fact that the Accies don't get a single point for arguably the finest player their academy has ever produced, Castlemilk's James McCarthy, a man who the SFA managed to let slip through their fingers.

"I am a financial guy, a money guy and a numbers guy - that is what I do for a living," says Gray, whose day job is with an independent finance firm in the city centre. "It is called Project Brave because there has been an element of having to be ready to get your head punched when you come out with this. Because people aren't going to like it. People aren't going to understand it. But ultimately nothing has happened over the last 10 years and the national game is suffering as a result of us not playing young players quickly enough.

"As part of last year's submission, to get my 76 points [enough for sixth in the SFA's scheme of MPOs]," he told Herald Sport. "I needed to be able to name the players who have played x number of games for my first team - Eamonn Brophy, Ali Crawford, Grant Gillespie, Ziggy Gordon, Michael Devlin etc," he added. "Then there are the championship players, Lee Kilday, the captain of Morton, who I had since he was 10, I am getting points for him, or Jordan Kirkpatrick at Alloa. I have to submit that every year and people should know how important that is."

This, basically, has been Gray's existence for the last 15 years, as the family shot on his screensaver on his desktop PC proves. "I have boys of 25, 23, 21, 19 and 18 and they all played pro youth at various clubs," says Gray. "Where are they playing now? Junior, amateur, lowland league, not at all, and not at all, but it doesn't matter, because they have made friends for life, done a good thing, confronted all of these challenges that I talk to our parents about. The cynicism [about Project Brave] largely comes from frustrated parents whose wee boy never got time and got let go. Only about one per cent makes it so 99% are pissed off because their son didn't."

Managers at Hamilton - be it Billy Reid, Alex Neil or now Martin Canning - would quite simply not be appointed if they didn't buy in to the club's modus operandi of blooding young footballers. But easy, you may say, playing kids at Hamilton's level, less so when you are Brendan Rodgers and Mark Warburton, you are chasing league titles and there are multi-million pound internationals blocking the way. That, theoretically, is where the colt teams proposal comes in, although the mechanism for that particular innovation to come into being is far from simple.

That, the thorniest issue of all, may have to wait, but as far as the rest goes Mackay and Regan will consult with all 29 Club Academy Scotland members in the next week or so. A meeting with the former Cardiff manager last week was enough to convince Gray that both the clubs and the SFA can prosper by way of this partnership.

"It is all part of a big picture, part of a big jigsaw," said Gray. "I met Malky for two hours last week and I was really encouraged by how enthusiastic he was. I am excited about the idea of having him coming out to our club and other clubs, and helping develop our players and our coaches, taking sessions with our Under-17s, none of that has happened before. The clubs will go along with it if the guys at the top end of the coaching spectrum are coming out to help your players develop and to try to get them game time."