MARK Wotte is back working in a club job after eight years in

development roles at the national associations of first Scotland and then Morocco. From July 1, it has been his job to oversee the ambitious youth policy at Al Wahda, of Abu Dhabi, a designation where no expense is spared across no fewer than 10 age-group teams.

But if his globe-trotting work providing the structures to help bring talented young footballers through the ranks has taught him anything, it is this: youth development is far too important just to be left to the clubs. Perhaps the case par excellence is that of Falkirk, who took the strategic decision to dispense with their youth academy on cost grounds, even though they had the good fortune to have their very own SFA performance school in their back yard at Graham High School.

“You can’t just leave youth development up to the clubs,” explains Wotte, “because a lot of them don’t have the finance, and a lot of them probably prioritise the funds to the first team.

“I’ve come across some clubs in Scotland who said they were very proud of their youth development systems, but if I ask them how much of your own money did you spend, ie. above the SFA payment, they start muttering and say not too much because we don’t have the money.

“I think the performance schools have proven their value. Every club has players who have been part of the performance school strategy at one point in time, whether they are in small clubs or big clubs. I think everyone has seen the benefit of it.”

So why are they back in the firing line, then? Well, while it obviously doesn’t help when the national team lose the matches they have recently, it is also true that the likes of Celtic and Rangers have the financial wherewithal to run their own school schemes at St Ninian’s in Kirkintilloch and Boclair Academy in Milngavie. It leaves the rest of the country rather sporadically catered for, with some year groups down to a handful of children.

“If the base is strong, the top of the pyramid will be high,” said Wotte. “But the national team coach loses three games, and everybody is talking bad about everything in Scottish football again. That is the mindset of Scottish football, they pick on anything out of the ordinary. I don’t see any relationship between the bad results of the national team and the performance schools. Those boys who started in 2011 are now 19 and you can’t expect a 19-year-old to play for the national team, they must play two or three years at first-team level first.

“And that is another huge responsibility for Scottish football, that the first-team managers take more responsibility for the talent management of the payer. It has been done by just a few clubs, Hearts did well a few seasons back but unfortunately are suffering in their first team at the moment.

“Celtic or Rangers have the money to fund schools for themselves, so I guess the SFA schools are for the clubs who don’t have the means to run them by themselves. They are money well spent in my opinion for the sake of Scottish football. In my opinion we should continue with the programme and put more energy into the pathway of getting them into first teams. This is something done

fantastically well done by Portugal, Belgium and Holland but is still a weak spot in the pathway when it comes to Scotland.”

As someone who counts Feyenoord as one of his former clubs, Wotte will be interested to see how they fare against Rangers tomorrow night. He sees the two teams as evenly matched and pinpointed winger Steven Berghuis as the biggest threat. “They have been struggling a bit,” he said. “To play in Rotterdam is always very difficult but so is Ibrox so I think the two teams will be quite equal and it will be very interesting to see who comes out on top. Berghuis is the best player, he is always coming in on from the right onto his left foot. There was a lot of interest from PSV Eindhoven and foreign clubs in him but he signed a new contract.”