New Long Eaton United manager Steve Welsh has established a solid reputation for working with youth teams.
Alongside assistant manager Shaun ‘Bullett’ Rickford and head of football development Paul Holland, Welsh, 49, will focus on youth, creating a pipeline of talented players from the highly-successful development squad and the newly-created academy into the first team at the Blues.
The former Partick Thistle and Peterborough United defender has a long affinity with youth development, having started his coaching badges in his late 20s.
Aged 35, Welsh became Lincoln City’s football in the community officer when he hung up his playing boots and later moved to Boston United, spending a decade at their centre of excellence.
From there Welsh spent two years at Ilkeston, nurturing some of the club’s young talent.
“It’s nice to see guys come in. You light a fire in their belly and they are then able to come up and go on,” said Welsh.
“That’s my background, working and developing younger players into first teams — bridging that gap.”
After joining the Armed Forces, aged 16, and serving for six years, Welsh launched his professional career, turning out for Cambridge United, Peterborough United, Preston, Partick Thistle, Dunfermline Athletic, Ayr United, Lincoln City and King’s Lynn.
His career highlights include a Wembley play-off final with the Posh in 1992, a Scottish Cup semi-final with Ayr in 1999 and a successful relegation battle with Partick Thistle in 1995, snatching four points from a final three games against Celtic, Falkirk and Rangers to survive.
Reminiscing online, one Partick fan labelled Welsh’s match against FC Metz in the Intertoto Cup as ‘surely the highlight of his career’, but the Scotsman looks back at that game rather differently.
“It was probably the biggest beating of my professional career,” said Welsh, who played against a 21-year-old French winger by the name of Robert Pirès in the now defunct competition.
“We got beat 1-0 but how it was just one is beyond me.
“The following year Metz went on to win the French league, so they were a good side. They ran us ragged.”
To ensure that youth are properly integrated into the first-team fold, Welsh has already made one commitment.
He said in every squad two places would be up for grabs for academy and development squad players, meaning just 14 spots for first-team players each week.
“We will be a mixture of experience and youth — and hopefully we will be all right,” he said.
“We hope to have the older players in the first-team committed to this vision and to help develop the young players, but at the same time the young players have got to step up.
“The great thing with youth is they go in with enthusiasm.
“If you can channel that they will run through brick walls for you.”