For my latest column, I decided to go completely against the grain, come out my comfort zone and write something non-Aberdeen related!
While browsing through Twitter one night the news of Airdrieonians announcement to go full-time hit my timeline. Immediately the story caught my attention and after retweeting the great news, I delved a little deeper.
Airdrieonians is a club I have always had a soft spot for as my football journalist uncle Bill Marwick (retired) wrote a book many years ago titled Airdrie – the first 100 years.
Here is a club who now ply their trade in the Scottish League One after infamously becoming the first club to go out of business since Third Lanark in 1967 but after a few tumultuous years, the Diamonds are back and on the brink of achieving something special.
Led by chairman Tom Wotherspoon and chief executive Iain King the club announced they are set to go full-time from June 6th. The aim is to have 16 full-time players available for first team selection and eight Under-20 players all on full-time professional contracts.
With the club currently operating part-time with the majority of players juggling day jobs, big decisions have to be made between now and June for the playing staff.
The emphasis though will very much focus on the productivity of youth and the development of the Airdrieonians Academy. The J-1 visa program used to grant temporary visas to foreign students interested in working in the U.S.
Having negotiated a deal to use the renowned Ravencraig Regional Sports Facility as the club’s training headquarters, the club have already made an impressive statement of intent knowing the education of their youth players is vital for the club’s future and existence.
You could argue that their impressive youth setup is already paying dividends as the first team currently consists of five players who graduated from the Academy.
The priority though for Head Coach Eddie Wolecki Black will be promotion to the Championship but at the time of writing the club sits a distant 17 points off league leaders Dunfermline but will take solace from the fact they sit comfortably in a play-off place.
From now until the end of the season big hearts will need to be in evidence on the park if the Championship beckons but no doubt the playing staff and coaching team very much match chairman Tom Wotherspoon’s ambitions of the club competing in the Championship by the end of year three after he took over the reins last August.
But with the club going full-time, enjoying state-of-the-art training facilities and an ambitious Head Coach more experienced players may be tempted by the lure of a club making noises in the Scottish game but if you are a player coming to the end of your days looking for one last pay-packet – forget it – Airdrieonians are not interested in becoming a nursing home.
Chief Executive Iain King recently told me that the news of the club going full-time has been tremendously received with the reaction overall from those in the game and afar being hugely positive.
Personally, I applaud Iain and the chairman for having the guts to stand up to “Armageddon” and proving to one and all that the game in Scotland is nowhere near as bad as some have you believe.
Airdrieonians are setting an example; you could argue they are laying down the foundations for other clubs to follow.
It’s a huge step, a massive step but my goodness how terribly bold. I wish all connected with the club nothing but good fortune, the positivity generated by their actions is a breath of fresh air.
So what happened to that “slow lingering death” some was predicting not that long ago?
Ally Begg’s column is sponsored by Dolly Digital, a freelance Graphic and New Media Design Studio based in Aberdeen. Check out their Aberdeen FC-related products now.