This week’s spotlight moves to Dens Park and Dundee’s rising star, Craig Wighton. Originally I had intended to profile Craig later in the season as I was unsure whether Paul Hartley would send the youngster out on loan. Rest assured, following Wighton’s cameo last Saturday, we are going to see plenty of this chap in the coming months.
The beginning of Wighton’s career is becoming a familiar tale in Tayside, attending Ian Cathro’s Box Soccer Training skill school which also boasts Ryan Gauld and John Souttar as prior attendees. Cathro built the skill school in Dundee, focussing primarily on developing technical ability at an early stage. Craig Levein recognised the potential in the young coach and brought him into the Tannadice set up in 2009. Following which, Ian took on a role with the SFA under performance director Mark Wotte. Cathro’s influence on the City of Discovery’s youth development only appeared on my radar in 2012. At which point, he was jetting off to Portugal to join the coaching staff of Rio Ave, having become somewhat disillusioned with opportunities to progress up the coaching ladder. In an interview with the Scotsman in October 2012, Ian highlighted the difficulties faced by a coach with limited professional playing experience.
“I just don’t think the opportunity would come for me here (Scotland). The only way I would find that sort of employment here is to leave, prove a success and then people here might start to open themselves up to it.”
On moving to Portugal he added,
“It’s not like here, where it’s the manager and the guy he played with 20 years ago. In Portugal, the idea of a technical team is to get the right people.”
Cathro’s decision to move abroad is a damning indictment of the Scottish game. How are we going to improve the quality of football in this country if we stifle the opportunities of young coaches with fresh ideas? Ian’s decision to leave Scotland appears to have paid of for him personally. Having lead Rio Ave to a Europa League spot last season, Cathro and head coach Nuno Espirito Santo joined Valencia in this summer. If you want further insight into Cathro’s early coaching career, I highly recommend reading an article from Box Soccer Training website, a great insight on how a young coach made a business out of his aspiration to improve the technical skills of youngsters.
Hartley Looking Ahead
This brings me neatly back to Craig Wighton, who possesses technical ability and great awareness. His first goal in the Scottish Premiership last weekend was an example of such attributes, keeping his head in a tight space and slipping the ball past the keeper. Wighton’s positioning on Saturday impressed me more than his goal. On a number of occasions he drifted into dangerous areas around the box, looking for opportunities to take on defenders. Credit to Partick, they held their nerve at the back and a 1-1 draw was a fair result. Despite this, there were plenty of positives for the Dundee faithful to take away from Craig’s second half cameo.
Speaking to BBC Scotland after Saturday’s game, Paul Hartley was keen to avoid putting too much pressure on Craig,
“We don’t want to say too much about Wighton because we know how good he is, I’m delighted to tie him up for the next few years. We think he’s the future of the club. We can only see him improving and getting better.”
Saturday’s performance is not the first time Wighton has put in a super sub showing. Back in May this year, Scotland under 17’s trailed 1-0 to Switzerland at half time, a result that would have put an end to their UEFA European under-17 Championships. Wighton came on at half time and within minutes scored the equaliser. He then turned provider for Scotland’s second in what went on to become a 3-1 victory and qualification for the semi finals of the tournament. Both he and Ryan Hardie (Rangers) were credited as the driving force behind Scotland’s come back. Unfortunately the young Scot’s were put to the sword by a talented Netherland’s side in the semi finals, a 5-0 drubbing. Overall Scotland coach Scott Gemmill considered the tournament a positive experience. Speaking to UEFA.com after the defeat
“They need to see the bigger picture – it might take a bit of time – because they’re going home as better players and can hold their head up high.”
Best of luck to Craig this season, hopefully Saturday’s goal is the first of many in the Scottish top flight.
Where are they now? – Mark Fotheringham
One of the most talented players to come from Dundee in the last 15 years is the mercurial Mark Fotheringham. Mark started his career in the Celtic youth team back in 1999. Whilst most Hoops fans knew who Mark was (due to his infamous ‘Fozzy Flick’ in a youth cup match), few of us were given the opportunity to see him live. Those of us lucky enough to witness him in youth matches saw a confident midfielder, capable of beating opponents, playing cute passes and a decent set piece taker – certainly a player who would have prospered in Ian Cathro’s training school.
Unfortunately for Fozzy, his spell at Celtic coincided with a fairly poor focus on youth development at the club as a whole. First there was the total farce of John Barnes era, followed by Martin O’Neill, who favoured spending ahead of promoting youth in his early seasons with the club. It was inevitable that Fotheringham would leave and in 2003 he joined Dundee – a shadow of the player Celtic fans had hoped for. And so began a journey spanning 10 clubs & 5 countries over 11 years.
After a fairly uneventful spell back in his home town, Fotheringham made the surprising move to SC Freiburg in 2005. From there he moved to Switzerland and FC Aarau. Both experiences provided very little to write home about.
His longest spell as an established first team player was with Norwich (2007-2009) where he made 69 appearances. Fotheringham appeared to have finally settled, becoming a fans favourite and was awarded the captaincy. Alas injuries and a falling out with manager Brian Gunn put and end to his spell at Carrow Road. Back to the drawing board, Fotheringham attended more trials than Pete Docherty – resulting in a number of short stints with clubs around the UK and a trip to Cyprus. It appeared this career was never going to catch light.
So why is Mark back on the radar? One of the most surprising moves this summer was Fotheringham being snapped up by Felix Magath at Fulham. Mark spent last season in and out of a struggling Notts County side in League One. If anything, he had been upstaged by an on loan Callum McGregor. Why has Magath decided to add one of football’s all-time Nomads to his squad?
Whilst there’s a chance that Mark made an impression during his season in Germany that sticks in Magath’s mind, I expect Peter Grant joining the coaching set up at Craven Cottage this summer is the real driver (he signed Fotheringham for Norwich in 2007).
What’s the point of highlighting Fotheringham? For starters, I really hope that he takes this chance at Fulham and shows us the player that many Celtic fans thought he could become. Secondly, in my opinion, Mark’s career is a product of a poorly structured youth system at Celtic coupled with an unprecedented level of spending in the Scottish game. I can’t help but think that had he started his career now – Mark’s chances of hitting the big time would be greater.
This suggests our game is going in the right direction, albeit Ian Cathro serves as a reminder that we must do all we can to keep talented young coaches in Scotland.