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St. Louis Lions

07/12/2016, 12:30pm EDT

Celtic Football Club affiliate continues focus on youth-to-pro pathway

Photo by St. Louis Lions

The St. Louis Lions may be in the heartland of the United States, but they have strong ties to Glasgow, Scotland.

Lions President Tony Glavin, born in the Scottish city, took the reins of the club in 2005. Since then, he has helped strengthen the players’ pathway to the professional level by implementing a senior program to play in the PDL. While that team is currently competing in its 11th season, the Lions have also fielded many youth teams throughout the years.

“The most memorable moments for me as coach of the Lions is seeing players develop a passion, a drive to improve to play at the next level and seeing those players succeed at the professional level,” Glavin said. “That helps drive me as a coach knowing I had a small part in a player's success, which in turn wants me to continue to help more players succeed at that level.”

In 2011, the ties to Glasgow became stronger as the Lions revealed an affiliation with Scottish giant Celtic Football Club. As part of the partnership, Celtic has sent academy coaches to the U.S. to assist the Lions’ players and coaches. Some players and coaching staff members of the Lions have also traveled to Glasgow to observe and take part in Celtic’s Youth Academy.

“My passion for soccer since I was a kid playing in the streets in Glasgow has not changed,” Glavin said. “I have been around the game for over 50 years and still love to play, watch and coach.

“When I was a player, one of my goals at the end of my playing career was to stay involved with the game as a coach. My career as a player ended sooner and abruptly due to a knee injury, which led me into coaching at a very early age of 27, which was 31 years ago.

"One of my first assignments with St. Louis Steamers, at the time, was working with the younger players. This gave me more of an incentive to focus on the development side of the game, getting young players ready to step up to the first team. I also started a reserve program to help bring younger players along. I have always been intrigued by helping young players improve their game; I have been running camps and clinics for 35 years and enjoy helping players.”

The Lions have helped develop more than 35 players, including Lawrence Olum of Sporting Kansas City and Tommy Heinemann of the Ottawa Fury, who have moved on to play at the professional level. The Lions have also helped develop coaches at various levels of the game, including youth and collegiate.

Forward Vadim Cojocov, who recently finished his senior season at Columbia College, has been the Lions’ key player during the 2016 PDL regular season, scoring three goals and providing two assists in 10 games.

“As a club we strive to be competitive, with continuing to bring and give opportunities to younger players each year,” Glavin said. “We hold high standards for our players while caring for their individual development both on and off the field.

“The philosophy of the Lions has been about helping to develop young players and help them to aspire to play at a higher level, and to simulate what it is like at the pro level. Our first priority is to create the professional environment for the players. We first follow the PDL league’s guidelines, which helps players understand they are playing in a highly competitive environment. From our training kit to our training sessions and everyday activities with the players, it is all focused to make players feel good about playing the game and with the team. We encourage our players to strive to work hard and improve their game in a competitive environment.”

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