BY ALAN TEMPLE – Capital City Press
Falkirk have firmly established themselves as one of British football’s best breeding grounds for young footballers, according to Swansea City’s top talent-spotter in Scotland.
Former Aberdeen legend John McMaster is the Swans’ chief scout north of the border and has convinced the club to raid the Bairns for Jay Fulton, Stephen Kingsley and, this week, Botti Biabi.
Connor McGrandles, Murray Wallace and Ryan Flynn have also earned moves to the English game in recent years with a wealth of first-team experience already under their belts, while Craig Sibbald and Blair Alston are relative veterans in Peter Houston’s side at 20 and 23 respectively.
McMaster believes Falkirk’s willingness to throw their best and brightest into the first-team at a tender age has caught the eye of scouts across the UK.
He told Capital City Press: “There is a lot to like about the model at Falkirk. They give young players a chance at a very young age and trust them to come through to the first-team.
“That filters up from the under-20s, where you have lads at 15 or 16 years of age getting their chance. If they are good enough, they know they will get a jersey.
“There are not many clubs in British football that have teenagers who have played more than 50 first-team games so that is always something that is going to be noticed.
“They are not just getting a good upbringing in a football sense, but in the human side of things. It’s a good place to learn your trade and we’re certainly aware of that at Swansea.”
Biabi, a physically precocious 18-year-old who made a real impact as a substitute in last season’s Scottish Cup final, could reportedly earn Falkirk as much as £700,000, should he satisfy several clauses.
Addressing Falkirk’s latest high profile sale, McMaster – who reports to Swansea’s head of recruitment Dave Leadbetter – continued: “It’s easy to forget Botti is only 18, given the amount of first-team and under-20 games he has played already.
“He’s a player who has the experience of playing in a Scottish Cup final – and he changed the game, so we’re really happy with bringing him down.”
McMaster, who played in Aberdeen’s European Cup Winners’ Cup final triumph in 1983, is firm friends with Falkirk technical director Alex Smith, while he enjoys an excellent working relationship with Bairns boss Houston.
However, he is also scouring the rest of Scottish football for top young talents, insisting that a willingness to field academy products at a tender age has made the SPFL a ripe hunting ground.
Adam King joined Swansea from Hearts in January 2014 in a £200,000 deal and has impressed coaches in South Wales with his potential.
McMaster continued: “Scottish football is a breeding ground for really promising players and, particularly in the Championship down in England, it is seen as a great place to look.
“The money situation is tight up here so the clubs are being forced to promote youth and that has meant more and more boys getting their chance.”