THE future looks bright for Livingston if their under-19 team is anything to go by.
The young Lions have started the defence of their league title in stunning fashion having scored 21 times with just one in reply, as they collected three wins and one draw from their opening four games.
Last Sunday they were on cloud nine as they ran out 9-0 winners in a comprehensive victory over Forfar.
It is barely two years ago since Head of Youth Brian Welsh first joined the Livingston set-up to find just six youth players still at Almondvale following the club’s spell in administration.
However, since then the former Dundee United and Hibs defender has completely overhauled and rebooted the Under-17 and Under-19 squads.
The Under-19 side has proved fertile soil for the Livi saplings, with the likes of Graham Dorrans (West Brom), Robert Snodgrass (Leeds), Leigh Griffiths (Wolves) and Andy Halliday (Middlesbrough) all graduates.
And Welsh is looking for more of his young players to break down the door to the first team dressing room.
“I think we have always had a good reputation for bringing through young players,” Welsh said.
“And the way football is going lots more teams are going to have to try and bring through youth players and there will always be opportunities for them here.
“The kids who come here know that if they are good enough they will be given a chance in the first team.
“They could end up going to Rangers or Celtic and at the end of their contract getting released.
“When we went through administration a couple of years ago we lost all our young players and I had to try and rebuild that. It’s been hard work. I only had six players across the youth teams when I came in.
“In an ideal world, we’d have come in and built up from the Under-12s all the way up.
“But we had to build from the top as the club needed players right now to keep us going over the next two or three years.
“As long as they are good enough they will get the chance and that has proved to be the case with several of our youngsters.
“It’s good to see them come through and play in the first team. It all helps keep costs down as it means the club is not having to bring in players on higher wages.”
Welsh’s work has been instant, with the Under-19s marching to a fourth league title in succession, as well as back-to-back Scottish Youth Cup semi-finals, while the Under-17s made club history by storming to SFL Youth League Cup glory.
But Welsh says he would take unearthing one or two gems a year over winning trophies.
“I have always said give me four top players over winning the league,” he added.
“The main thing is individual development rather than team development.
“I told the players to forget about winning the league. As long as they are all getting better as players then I will be happy. As soon as we stop getting better then we have a problem
“If you think about winning leagues you will spend two hours working on set plays but I will not do that.
“They do a lot of work on the individual sides of their game.
“We work on areas of improvement that have been designed to make them more complete players.
“In saying that the group of under-19s we have at the moment look pretty special. They’ve played a couple of league matches now and they have been outstanding. Even in training some of the stuff they’ve been doing is the best I have seen since I came here.”
Now local businesses have the opportunity to become the new lead sponsors of the club’s highly successful under-19 team for just £100
For the first time, the Lions are to hold a prize draw with the high profile sponsorship package as the top prize.
The draw is open to businesses and individuals, with just 75 tickets up for grabs at a cost of £100 each.
All entrants will be invited to enjoy the Lions’ First Division match with Partick Thistle on Saturday, September 24, with the draw being made on the pitch at half-time.
The holder of the winning ticket will have their name or logo emblazoned on the front of the team’s home and away shirt for the 2011-12 season, together with a range of additional lead sponsor benefits, including stadium advertising.
Two further ticket holders will have their company livery added to the back of the team’s shirts and shorts.
Tickets for the draw are on sale now from Livingston FC on a first-come, first-served basis.
Contact commercial director Charles Burnett on 01506 417000 for more details.