New Vale of Leven U20s coach Graeme Ramage on pathway to senior football

Graeme Ramage Football Academy
-Credit: (Image: Lennox Herald)

New Vale of Leven U20s boss Graeme Ramage is aiming to ensure the club’s thriving academy can continue to produce first team stars of the future.

Former St Mirren and Dumbarton player Graeme was appointed as the Vale’s new U20s manager earlier this summer, and says that the focus will be on development in the fiercely competitive West of Scotland Development League.

Graeme, who will work alongside Dominic Donaldson, Graeme McKenzie and Connor Beggs in the role, told the Lennox: “I want to help boys to realise how good they could actually be and make sure they do get a crack at it.

“I want to help them on the park, but off the pitch as well. That’s really important to all of us.

“We had a meeting with the boys and got across that this is a development league.

“As coaches our job should be to help develop these players to move into a first team environment.

“I played for the Vale a few seasons ago, and at that time probably 75 percent of the squad had come through the youth system.

“Now it’s even more than that I would say.

“They are having a big impact. Players like Greg Thackrey last season finished as the top goalscorer, Lewis King has been there for years and is a mainstay.

“He’s had offers to go elsewhere, but he enjoys being at the Vale.

“It’s a good place to be. They are working on other things to try and develop the club which makes it an exciting time for the club.”

Vale born Graeme, who runs a successful football academy locally, spent time last season coaching at Dumbarton, but said that he jumped at the chance to move up to management at Millburn.

Irn Bru Division 3 Annan Athletic v Elgin City - Goal 1 of the match by Annans Graeme Ramage.
Graeme enjoyed spells in senior football with clubs including Annan Athletic and Dumbarton. -Credit:Daily Record

He continued: “I helped out a bit with Dumbarton last season, but decided to step away from that and have a think about what I wanted to do.

“A month or so after that the opportunity came up at the Vale. I got a phone call on a Thursday and by the next day I’d decided that it was the direction I wanted to go in.

“It’s a good opportunity for myself and one I’m excited for.

“First team manager Brian (Brown) has phoned me a good few times and I’m still in touch with (former U20s coach) Alex Lacy.

“I’ve worked with a lot of managers in my own career and you take wee snippets from different people.

“I’ve got a style in my head, but it will be implemented to each and every one of the players. They will all be given a fair crack at playing for us.

“The boys who are there are all local. I want to help them as much as they will develop me as a coach.

“I’ll be in situations as a coach where I’m going to need to be challenged and that’s something I’m really looking forward to.”

Vale of Leven 1-0 Bellshill Athletic (May 6 2023 WOSFL Division 3)
Graeme played alongside a host of talented academy graduates during his time as a Vale player. -Credit:Brian Craig

And Graeme believes that homegrown talent is the best way for the Vale to continue to compete in the West of Scotland League - with rival clubs able to splash big money on squad additions.

He added: “Some of the money floating about just now in the West of Scotland League is ridiculous.

“But these boys are staying where they are, and it’s not because of a lack of opportunities.

“It’s because they are in such an enjoyable environment.

“So many of them have come through together and they are all in the same boat of wanting the team to get better.”