Aberdeen FC announced yesterday six players who have stepped up from the Youth Academy ranks to go full-time with the club.
- Alfie Bavidge, central striker
- Alfie Stewart, central midfielder
- Cameron Wilson, wide attacking midfielder / striker
- Findlay Marshall, central midfielder
- Kai Watson , centre-back / full-back
- Milosz Ochmanski, centre-back
Gavin Levey spoke to RedTV about the new recruits:
“He’s been in the academy since under 10s, so he’s been involved with the club from the age of 8. His pace was the eye catching thing for the scouting team. The four-a-side pitches weren’t big enough for him because he was so quick! He came in from Dyce Boys’ Club. His dad, Martin, is a former striker with Caley Thistle and Peterhead.
“One of his earliest opportunities here was playing in a big tournament in The Netherlands against teams like Feyenoord which gave him great exposure to playing against top young defenders of a similar age. Alfie’s always been in the tournament teams since he’s been at Aberdeen, so he’s played in a lot of different competitions. As well as being very fast he has power. He more than held his own playing for the Under 18s throughout last season whilst still at school. Those are his big attributes and to add to that, he can finish with both feet.
“He’s got a great personality and good leadership qualities. He’s a hard worker, he listens, asks questions and takes on information really well. He’s been right through the SFA Performance School at Hazlehead too and been involved in the national team set up at both his own age group and also the year above. He finished as the top scorer in the Victory Shield last year.”
“Alfie came in through the Advance Centre programme, and was actually given a head start by a year. He came into the Under 10s, a year earlier than most, to work with Jim Crawford. It was our former head scout Colin Grant who spotted him and told us we needed to get Alfie into the club. He’s from Newtonhill.
“Alfie is another one who has come right through in terms of the tournament culture that we’ve managed to create now. He’s had exposure of playing against lots of different teams and styles. He’s more of a creative midfielder who can play in different areas. He’s left footed, very good from set plays, he’s got a good range of passing and is creative in possession. Alfie broke into the Under 18s in the second half of the season last year, which was a good chance for him to make his mark and earn his professional contract. Another young player to progress through the Scottish FA Performance School, Alfie will be aiming to kick off his new season where he left off before the break.”
“Cammy is from Kintore and joined the Academy at eight years old from Westdyke Boys’ Club and was another one who was involved in our Advance Centre programme with Jim Crawford.
“He plays off either side or can play as a number 10. He’s played in many different tournaments, and his technical ability always meant that he impressed against European sides as well as the team we play at home. Very creative in terms of how he plays. He’s got a trick, he likes to take players on, he’s got good attributes. He was born in November so he’s the youngest of those progressing to a professional contract.
“Throughout his Academy journey so far, Cammy has demonstrated an excellent desire to practice and improve and really grew in confidence towards the end of last season when featuring for the Under 18s side on a regular basis. He’s hardly been out of Cormack Park during the off season and is a youngster who has a real appetite to improve.”
“Findlay is from near Stonehaven and he came in slightly later than the others (U12s) but like the all the ones we’ve mentioned so far, he was in the first ever Katoni Cup squad at the Sports Village and was in the side that won it, which is nice to look back on. He came in from Dyce Boys’ Club, from their 2006 boys. They’ve been a very successful group and won a couple of Scottish cups since at under 13 and under 16 level.
“He’s another one from the Performance School, a really hard worker in central midfielder, a defensive midfielder, mainly. He’s got very strong leadership qualities. He’s always had that from a very young age. He’s very dedicated and he’s someone that I know Barry Robson thinks very highly of. My opinion is that Barry probably sees a lot of attributes in Findlay that may have been similar to himself in terms of his work rate and desire. As a coach, you always lean towards certain things that you like to see in a player, and I think they match very well. Findlay will always come and ask questions of the coaches as he’s always looking for ways to improve his game. Having had the extra support from the Performance School, it has really contributed to his progress so far as well.”
“Kai was a central midfielder when he came in from Westdyke Boys’ Club, and also progressed through the Performance School set up at Hazlehead. Kai is a young player who is physically strong and determined, especially in 1v1 duals. Being a versatile player who has played in many areas of the pitch, he’s also strong technically, with a good range of passing and striking technique.
“Similar to all the boys we’ve talked about, he’s had many opportunities to play in the year above himself throughout, which obviously stretches their development. He’s played central midfield, centre-back and more recently he’s played right-back in the Under 18 side, particularly at the Algarve Cup where he had a really strong tournament in Portugal. He’s played in the young Scotland sides too and has really earned his opportunity to come into the full-time environment where we hope to see Kai develop even further over the next two seasons. He’ll hopefully thrive in the environment at Cormack Park.”
“Milosz has been on our radar all the way through the academy. He is a great example of someone who never gave up and has shown tremendous determination because he’s been on trial here a number of times at various age groups. Each time he never quite made it, but always took on board the feedback and went away and improved. Two and a half years ago he finally came in and signed, and he’s really developed since then in. We’ve seen a player there who really takes in information and he’s just someone who we really aim to develop into a good player. He’s a really good lad who has started to show some strong leadership qualities too.
“He’s played in the Under 18s, he played up a year in juvenile football and signed from a very good Cove Boys Club side. He can play left-back or left centre-half but longer term, we’re probably looking for Milosz to be challenging for the centre back position.”
Gavin continued: “Looking at the all the players, they had some great opportunities to play a lot of games last season in the Under 18s. For some of them initially, it was very, very hard for them. Then, slowly but surely, and working with Barry Robson and Scott Anderson, they started to understand the demands more.
“Circumstances gave them the opportunity, but I think that’s important because the key message for these boys was, if the opportunity presents itself, be ready. Because we were such a small group last year, there was always going to be a need for them.
“It was exactly the same with Liam Harvey with the first team at the end of last season. Circumstances presented an opportunity for Liam to get in that first team and he took it. I felt his link up play in the final game of the season was very good and he will be desperate to impress Jim whenever the opportunity presents itself. It’s the same with these boys at eighteens. Barry is excellent at trying to push the lads on and making sure we get them out on loan with Simmy or into the first team environment whenever possible.
“It’s important to mention Kev Symon, James Walker and Hannah Miller on the medical and sport science side of things because we’ve had to be very careful about how we bring these players in and how we build them up. It’s something that we’re spending so much time on now so that other players who have the opportunity next year can manage that transition from the Under 16s to the 18s as well as possible. The group last season were as fit as I’ve ever seen an Under 18 side here, and we are excited about some of the enhancements we can make to our whole programme throughout the Academy in the year ahead.
“All these young players have properly earned their contracts. They’ve all gone in, and they’ve earned the right to play. You’ve got to go and impress the coaches that are there, because we’re all going to get round the table and discuss these individuals. Because they’ve been in there and they’ve had so much game time, they’ve demonstrated some of the qualities that they have.
“In the development phase, we still have a massive duty to help develop these players. What they learn over the next two or three years is hopefully going to stand them in good stead for whatever happens next. With the model that we have here, and the manager has certainly made his mark in terms of believing in youth already, these boys have to be ready at any time. He’ll take young players in for training. Every time they go in there, they’ve got a chance to impress.
“It’s strange to say, but I actually think that for a lot of the players in this age group, the Covid situation last year did not affect their development negatively as much we thought it might, and in some ways maybe even helped them. We couldn’t do anything for them other than supervise a programme. Lots of the young professionals were putting in a heap of work at home. Calvin Ramsay was one of the ones doing stuff at home, and we used videos of him doing the same homework that the boys were tasked to do.
“But this group in particular, they were the group that made the most progress out of any of the age groups. The 2006s and the 2010s were competing against each other to pass the most levels of our home learning programme. Technically, what they worked on in that time was really important. And then they came back so hungry! They came back desperate to impress. They also knew that the time that they had left to earn a contract was going to be less than other years in the past. So they’ve come in and they’ve hit the ground running.”
“It’s important to highlight the great work that the coaching and recruitment team have done to help support the development of each of these boys and everyone will be excited to see how they progress and be looking forward to some first team debuts at some stage in the future.”