Chelsea star Billy Gilmour and Rangers’ Nathan Patterson are Performance School graduates heading to Euro 2020 – something former SFA chief executive Stewart Regan envisaged seven years ago.

Now working with FIFA and UEFA, Regan packed plenty into a turbulent eight-year stint as SFA chief, prior to his exit in 2018. While success on the park was again a near miss, Regan did help successfully secure Glasgow’s place as a host city for this summer’s Euro 2020 tournament while also implementing the performance strategy that helped bring through the likes of Chelsea starlet Gilmour.

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The Chelsea youngster has made his Scotland debut (Photo by Mario Hommes/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)

Regan was a key figure in the launch the of SFA Performance Schools, which blend academic and footballing excellence together. It’ll be a proud moment for the programme next week as Gilmour and Patterson – two graduates of the system – stand ready to play for Scotland at its first major tournament since 1998 just eight years after its launch.

Former SFA chief executive Regan tells NTOF he saw the likes of Gilmour’s potential in 2014: “When you look at the plans from the Scotland United strategy in 2012, one of the initiatives was the creation of Performance Schools.

“We set up seven of them across the country and I remember at the end of 2014, we put the bid in to UEFA for Hampden to be one of the Euro 2020 host stadiums. At the time it seemed like such a long way away. But I was watching the end of that draw again last week.

“I said that our vision for 2020 was for Scotland to qualify for the tournament, some matches to be played at Hampden and the squad to include Performance School players. That has happened (through Gilmour and Patterson). That is a fantastic achievement for the coaches and everyone associated with them.

“What we also wanted was players playing at the highest level. We wanted players to reach their potential by playing the best players in the world, targeting the top six leagues. It’s going to be a fantastic time and it’s an exciting time for the players and the country.”

While the Chelsea and Rangers men are now the shining lights for the Performance School system after winning the Champions League and Scottish Premiership respectively last term, there’s many more coming through.

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Campbell is a graduate.
(Photo by Ewan Bootman/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Ethan Erhahon, Dean Campbell, Logan Chalmers Stephen Kelly and Reegan Mimnaugh all featured regularly in Scotland’s top-flight last season while Josh McPake shone in the Scottish Championship and League Two down south, Stuart McKinstry graduating from Braidhurst High School to join Leeds United.

Regan says the programme has been a success so far: “The strategy has been a long time coming. Braidhurst was one of the prototypes of the concept and players like Craig Sibbald were involved, many moons ago. It’s combined sporting excellence with academia, working with UEFA coaches and better players and working alongside clubs.

“I think it has really helped. You only have to look at the amount of graduates playing at the highest level to see it’s been a very worthwhile exercise. We wanted to get a balance between academic excellence and sporting success. There’s lot of kids who have gone into football without much focus on education.

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Regan believes the schools work. (Photo credit should read PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

“Things like homework, attendance, discipline, they were all values that were reinforced by the schools. Hundreds of kids have come through in the last eight years and I think over 50 players have gone on to sign professional contracts, some in England. There’s more interest in Scottish talent.

“I think it’s because of the likes of Liverpool’s Andy Robertson and Arsenal’s Kieran Tierney coming out of Scotland, making an impact at the highest level. The Performance School kids have done really well out of it.

“There’s a good case study for academic and sporting balance. Many countries are looking at what Scotland has achieved and I do work now with UEFA and FIFA. I am often asked about the SFA’s performance strategy and the Performance Schools were the pillar of that.”

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