ROSS County this week unveiled plans for the establishment of an elite performance academy that aims to take youth development at the Dingwall club “to the next level”.
The Staggies’ youth set-up has already been widely hailed a success story with the Development Squad under club legend Stuart Kettlewell currently holding the league title after a remarkable campaign last season.
This week, it was announced that former player and youth and community development supremo, Steven Ferguson, has accepted a trailblazing new role as the first director of the new academy.
Three years ago, Ferguson made the move from first team assistant manager, under Derek Adams, to accept the role of head of youth and community.
In his time in that role his team have transformed the youth pathway at the club right through from community grassroots to the championship-winning Development Squad.
With the club hierarchy now confident that a sustainable structure and procedures are in place, Ferguson’s new role will see him take Ross County youth development a step further.
In his new role, Ferguson will still have overall responsibility for the management of Youth and Community development at the Highlands’ only top flight club.
But his focus will now be on creating what is being called an Elite Performance Academy in Dingwall for players aged from eight to 18. That is regarded as a centrepiece of the club’s youth strategy and vision for the future.
Explaining the new role this week, the club said Ferguson has been tasked with putting a specialist team in place that will deliver on all aspects of an Elite Performance Academy. The process has already started, with Gordon Duff taking up his new role as community manager and Calum MacAskill leaving St Mirren to join as academy physiotherapist. Further appointments are expected next week.
Speaking about the new role this week, Ferguson said: “After a number of lengthy discussions with our chairman, Roy MacGregor, it became apparent that, three years on from setting out on the journey to revolutionise youth development at the club, that we still shared the same passion and vision to push on and achieve the next phase of creating an elite performance academy.
“It was an easy decision to accept the role of academy director,” he admitted. “We have been able to achieve a lot over the last three years – which has taken a lot of hard work from a lot of people. But we have outgrown our current set-up and feel the time is right for change that will let us continue to grow moving forward.”
Speaking about Ferguson’s appointment, Roy MacGregor, said: “I’m absolutely delighted that Steven has accepted the offer to become our first academy director.
“He has been integral in getting the club as far as we have with youth development – along the way earning his Uefa Pro Licence, which is a fantastic personal achievement from which the club and its young players are benefitting, too.
“Steven is the perfect guy to deliver on our vision of having an elite performance academy at the the club. He has played more than 200 games for – as well as captaining – the club and has also had spells as assistant and caretaker manager of the first team.
“Under his stewardship the academy will enable the club to identify and develop talent from the Highland region which I think will offer huge opportunities and have a significant impact on young people within our community.”
The 40-year-old first joined Ross County in 1996 as a midfielder, going on to score 50 goals over the course of 174 league appearances.
He subsequently had stints with Ayr United, Brechin City and Stenhousemuir as well as a spell on loan to Dumbarton.
Four years ago, when County sacked then manager Derk Adams and his director of football father, George, Ferguson was briefly put in charge of the first team pending the appointment of Jim McIntyre.