Para Hills’ fledgling new partnership with Scottish professional club St Mirren is a snapshot of the football future of Australian NPL second tier outfits says the club’s co-coordinator Dale Ramsay.
St Mirren has already targeted Knights’ Isaac Mullen for a professional contract and another unnamed teammate revealed Ramsay.
Just six months ago, Para Hills was on the verge of collapse as the coronavirus pandemic had hit the club extremely hard financially.
“This is the future, we were looking at closing the doors with all the COVID-19 stuff and the federation (Football SA) fees,’’ Ramsay said.
“But then again we have more than 400 kids that play the game, my two boys; Tim was (senior) goalkeeper here and he is now a doctor and Ben is now a pharmacist, and that’s the balance between sport and academics which keeps you sane.”
The clubs’ agreement has already attracted global sponsors Ramsay said with “Muscle and Bone” jumping on board as the Knights field more inquiries from potential sponsors over the past week he added.
Less than 24 hours after the Scottish Premiership club and the world acclaimed BBC websites posted the partnership was official, Ramsay said the project had commenced in March during the height of the pandemic via Knights coach Theo Tsiounis.
“Theo has got global contacts and all of our visa players from Holland and various different managers right around the world and we were contacted by management Group 154 and wondering if we wanted to go down this path with St Mirren,’’ Ramsay said.
“With (St Mirren chief executive and club legend) Tony Fitzpatrick there was mutual contact, we started talking and it snowballed from there.
“The general gist is that St Mirren will want to monitor our players and they’ll be sending players out here but obviously there is a limit on two at a time for visa players in SA.
“It’s a bigger picture and we’ll communicate a lot through video conferencing, training techniques, tours back and forth with coaches and officials and pitching ideas, working together.
“Tony Fitzpatrick was given the captaincy at 17-years-old by Sir Alex Ferguson when he was the manager there.
“Tony is a bit like me, he’s been at the club all his life and it’s where you want to make it as good as you can.
“We’re both focusing on the clubs to try and make it beneficial to everyone involved.”
Ramsay said the limited professional opportunities for young Australians was a good reason to seek a partner abroad where the Knights could realistically give their players a much bigger gateway to world football.
“There’s a couple of lads including Issac Mullen that have been offered full-time contracts and it’s a real thing that the lads now can become full-time footballers, they’re 19 and 20 years old,’’ Ramsay said.
“We really are right behind the world in a lot of things right from the top.
“I’ve got issues with competitions management right through to how we train our under 6s.
“We’re kind of having a readdressing of everything and now focussing on junior coaches having qualifications, extra technical directors and people like that.
“It’s all about developing the kids and developing young adults and giving them the opportunity to see what full time football is all about.”
Ramsay said the Knights’ number one priority is to also reinstate its previously strong family club culture.
He says that the trait of the club in previous years had disappeared, coinciding with Football SA’s user pays talent identification programs which has lured children away from healthy club environments.
“The NTC and Skillaroos take kids away, we want to instil club, family, loyalty and for every kid that comes through we want to keep four out of 10,’’ Ramsay said.
“There are mercenaries that are killing clubs now and these kids are promised their pathways are the road to Adelaide United.
“We’ve had kids at 19 years old (in the Football SA) system and have nowhere to go afterwards and they say “see you later champ” and that’s run by the governing body for financial gain.”