It’s one of those glum autumn days when the sun is having a lie-in and the curtains remain pulled across the West Lothian sky. The inclement weather, however, has not dulled the ambitions of 47 boys gathered on a training pitch to the rear of Livingston’s Tony Macaroni stadium.

The youngsters – born in 2009 and 2010 and selected from more than 3000 kids in the Coerver Coaching programme that also encompasses 30 partner clubs across the country – have been chosen to represent Scotland at the Coerver Cup (November 12-14) in Helsingborg, Sweden, a tournament that will feature teams from the host country, Netherlands, Denmark, Norway and Iceland.

Once viewed with suspicion, Coerver has established itself as one of the best coaching methods in world football. It was founded in 1984 by Dutchman Alf Galustian and the former Chelsea and Scotland great Charlie Cooke, and took its inspiration from the philosophy of Wiel Coerver, the legendary coach of Feyenoord, who devised the coaching style after watching old tapes of Pele, Franz Beckenbauer, Johan Cryuff, and Stanley Matthews.

From the outset the two men wanted to develop skilful, confident and creative players, attributes which are clearly evident in many of today’s exponents of the Coerver style such as Celtic’s Reo Hatate.

It was Gordon Craig – then a 20-something football fanatic, now the director of Coerver Scotland and Portugal – who brought the method to Edinburgh some 30 years ago.

“I had played juvenile football, was really into my football and was a 20-year-old lad when I saw this video, back then it was a VHS video, and thought ‘I have never seen anything like this in my life’,” recalls Craig, who has previously worked for Rangers and Everton and served as an elite performance national youth coach for the Scottish FA.

“It was Wiel Coerver’s work, ball mastery, game moves, and somebody teaching that. I was looking at these kids doing things with the ball and thinking ‘bloody hell’. I took a trip down to London because I was that intrigued by it all and then I opened up my first soccer school in Edinburgh. At that time Coerver was not global. Alf and Charlie Cooke were the main players, they were doing a lot in America, some stuff in the UK but they were looking for licensees and I was just so blown away by it. That’s what got me into coaching and that kept me in the game.”

Today, there are programmes all across Scotland and, indeed, all over the world with 52 countries now teaching the method. Evidence of Craig’s success can be seen here at Livingston in the make-up of the Coerver Scotland squad with players drawn from Hibernian, Dundee United, St Mirren, Hamilton Academical, Kilmarnock, Queen’s Park, Morton – and a slew of the best exponents from grassroots football teams across Scotland. But Craig says the method was not always viewed so favourably.

“Back then – in the late 80s – people knew of it, they had some interest in it, but they hadn’t fully grasped it. You got the feeling it was ‘all that Coerver stuff, all the tricks and flicks’. Well, it was not a trick and a flick for a start. But that was the attitude towards it – kinda sniffy.”

Now generally accepted by Club Academy Scotland clubs as a method that produces talented players, Coerver formed a partnership with Benfica in 2014 which allows kids from Scotland to sample intensive training camps, and gives them a snapshot of full-time football at one of European football’s most prestigious clubs.

“We’re still here 30 years later,” says Craig, who has witnessed thousands of kids coming through the programme. “We believe we have a part of the jigsaw, an important part. We get them at a young age, 7-12 is the golden age. The key thing is ball mastery. Ball mastery in game moves and ball mastery for ball mastery’s sake. Coaches miss something when they think ‘it’s all that fancy footwork stuff’. Yes, it’s fancy footwork but what you are doing is building confidence. You’re asking players: can you do it faster? Can you add complexity and speed to it? We focus on the five Ss – speed, skill, sense, spirit and strength.”

These kids gathered at Livingston head to Helsingborg this weekend for a tournament that will present them with the opportunity to test their skills against some of the best kids Scandinavian and Dutch football has to offer.

Craig says the opportunity for the Scottish boys is a priceless one and can provide them with “penny-dropping moments” – a term he refers to more than once.

“The standard will be really high, they [the other countries] are trying to create similar types. The Norwegian team has players from Rosenborg, there are players from other professional clubs. It’s fantastic for Scottish kids; we’re finding that when you give good opportunities and experiences you are also developing the person with the player. There’s a young kid at Livingston: he came out to Benfica and they put us up against Benfica’s international squad. At training he was brilliant but in the first two or three games we played, the teams were older and physically stronger and he didn’t really stand out. Then we played Benfica at the end and he was man of the match. When he came back Livingston signed him.

“The association with Benfica over the past eight years has given kids the chance to experience that environment and the idea now is to give them experience of different countries. The work I have have done with Benfica, mixing with kids from Brazil, South Africa, Portugal – all over – is about coming together: the cultural thing, maturing as a young person, how they are on the pitch, off the pitch, do they take confidence from that – it creates friendships for life.”

Craig feels a sense of obligation to those children who have come through Coerver Scotland, some of whom have been training with the programme since the age of seven. For parents and children who have dedicated the early years of their lives to football – dominated by car journeys to far-flung corners of Scotland, late bedtimes, school and homework interruptions and myriad other commitments – there can often be an existential crisis when they reach a certain age.

“As they get a bit older, the famous question comes up – ‘What next, Gordon?’ It’s my belief that if they are Coerver kids, we should have answers for that. It’s about giving them the right support, the right advice and it’s about creating opportunities. With our contacts we try to help them as best we can but then you reach a point where you say ‘we need to get organised on this’ because it is a question that is coming up all the time – and we’re in 52 countries, we can have some answers for these kids and things like the Coerver Cup is preparing them for a career overseas. It might be going to university overseas, for example, because not every kid is going to become a professional.

“Ninety-nine per cent of those players aren’t going to make it but they will still be very good players. We should be able to help them as well. It’s about creating opportunity and circumstances and maybe we can put them into our own programme that gives them university studies and full-time training in as professional an environment as you can make it. The only way we can do that is by taking it ourselves.”

Craig draws on two examples of ‘penny-dropping moments’ for youngsters who came through the Coerver system, one who remains in British professional football and another who moved away.

“One kid, a goalkeeper called John McCracken who is at Stoke Under-23s, came with us to Benfica and he says to this day that was the penny-dropping moment. He told me ‘my experience with you for that one month, made me a pro. I saw what I had to do’. There’s another Scottish Coerver kid who is going to be working for us in Portugal. He’s not playing top end in Portugal but he is playing competitive football, he’s fluent in Portuguese, has a Portuguese girlfriend, he has a life there and he says ‘Gordon, I love it here’. He was a player at Ross County at the time, he had a contract, but he said ‘it’s not what I want, it’s not what I expected’. So he ended up in Portugal. Whenever we go out now for dinner, he’s the one who orders in Portuguese.”

For now, though, the focus is on Helsingborg where Craig is hoping the penny-dropping moments he refers to resemble something akin to a Scottish wedding scramble for the 47 kids that will travel to Sweden this weekend.