Saturday, 2 July 2011

Leith Athletic with Albert Bungay

Please read below for my interview with Leith Athletic President Albert Bungay. It was published in the latest Football Focus magazine which can be viewed here for absolutely free.

The crest of Leith Athletic FC
 Leith Athletic

Leith Athletic are a club that pride themselves on the success of their youth system. Football Focus spoke to Albert Bungay, President of the Edinburgh club, last month and the names of players who have come through the youth system was very impressive. Former Dundee star Leigh Griffiths began his footballing career at Athletic and recently joined Premier League side Wolves for a fee believed to be around £150,000. Other big names are Dundee United's Danny Swanson, St. Mirren defender Darren McGregor and Hibernian's Sean Welch.

However, Leith Athletic are certainly not a club living in the past. The first team won promotion to the East of Scotland Premier League this season and Albert has high hopes that they can consolidate their position in the Division. “We will be looking for our first team to consolidate their position in the Premier League. We we will hold our own at this level and may even surprise a few teams as the season progresses. We soon hope to see our first team challenging the current league leaders in the Premier Division and to be one of the leading clubs in the East of Scotland league.”

Indeed, Athletic are very much focused on the future and Albert is very proud of the current youth set up, but he hopes to encourage more girls to take up the sport. “We have around 500 boys and girls from five years old to twenty-one learning and playing for the club. The most pleasing aspect of our current first team is that every player in the team had previously played for one of our youth teams. The clubs longest serving player Kevin Freedman aged twenty-six has been involved with the club for fifteen years and is currently a member of our first team. We have just recently established a girls section over the last year. At present it is a work in progress but now that the light nights are here and the girls can get back training outside we will attract more girls to the club over the next few months. ”

Youth development and community involvement is something Albert believes go hand in hand and is delighted to confirm this is the case in Leith. “We have built our reputation as a community club. The majority of the boys and girls live local. All the teams are sponsored by local firms and the local schools and sports halls benefit from our teams using their facilities. We have just recently received the Community Quality Mark award from the SFA in recognition of the standard the club has set and we are one of only three clubs in Edinburgh to receive it.”

Leith Athletic have done very well since they formed fifteen years ago, but Albert knows there is still a lot of hard work to be done, especially in tough financial times. “One of the biggest challenges facing our club has to be the lack of facilities for training and the changing room facilities. It is an old building and although it meets a certain requirement we would definitely look to expand or improve if we could. The problem for the club is that in the current economic climate changing facilities for football clubs is not high on the council’s agenda.”

Leith continue to excel in their teaching of football to youngsters, but Albert wants to go a step further than most football clubs go. He is keen to link the club with other sports so youngsters have a number of different sporting opportunities. “On the field we will be looking for our soccer schools and youth teams to continue the work we do in learning and teaching young boys and girls the basic soccer skills. We are keen to build relations with other sport clubs in the immediate area in a bid to allow youngsters in the community to experience and improve their skills in a variety of different sports. We believe having attended meetings with people from Edinburgh sports councils that the way forward for most clubs is to become part of a community based sports hub with all sports coming together giving the kids an opportunity to try different sports. Which may attract funding from local councils easier than all sports working individually.”

written by Will Lyon

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