Craig Armstong Interview (Gartcairn)

Martmak caught up with the commerical director.

I was recently able to have a word with the Gartcairn Juniors commercial director Craig Armstrong following the pre season friendly against Ardeer Thistle and he kindly agreed to answer some questions on the SJFA West Region new boys. As well as looking after the finances of the Airdrie side, Craig has a good footballing pedigree in his own right, he explained to me “My background is that I played junior football many moons ago with Shotts Bon Accord and Bellshill Athletic, before taking over at the local amateur Sunday team Fourways Thistle in which we were well known for our organisation and quality.
“Our Sunday team joined in with Gartcairn to make the Saturday morning team three years ago and we have won three league titles and have now been promoted to the churches league premier division. I managed these teams myself.”

When asked why Gartcairn took the big decision to make the jump into junior football, he replied,

“It was actually Newmains who made the junior team happen so quickly, as I was considering helping them out after reading things about them in the newspaper, it became apparent that Gartcairn had everything and more to offer the junior game.
“We considered the lowland league but decided we wanted our local teams Airdrie and Albion Rovers to thrive and we didn’t want to compete with them as another senior team. Our hope is that we have created a player pathway from five year old to amateur to semi pro and then hopefully the boys can move up to a senior club, preferably Airdrie or Albion Rovers.
“We already have several younger boys training with the junior team and we have taken at least two players to every game so far. To come from under 16’s to be travelling on the bus and sharing a changing room with guys like Tam McManus it’s only going to be good.
“I must say that Tam and the more experienced guys have been great with the younger boys and the team has a real family feel to it.”

Some of the players from the Gartcairn set up have already made the leap into the side,

”So far we have had Stephen Cameron, Paul Harty, Barry Foy who have all signed from our amateur team and Lewis Tobin and Connor Shields from the youth teams, we are delighted with this so far.” When asked about the current sense of excitement amongst the current batch of youth players at Gartcairn regarding the possibilities open to them, he replied “100%, we have been inundated with requests for under 19’s, 17’s and amateur players as they know if they do what’s required they will be given a chance.”

It can’t be easy starting up a new junior team and funding a club through a long season but Craig explained his method of financing

“Gartcairn are a very big part of the local community and businesses are well aware of the work that goes on. I have created a pay as you go sponsor package in which companies can get involved from £50 to £1000 per month depending on how they feel we can best promote their business.
“We have some excellent sponsors in Mitie who gave us a five figure sum in exchange for being our main sponsor and our mascot is Cairney the MITIE mouse. We have a healthy relationship with Health Rewards Vitality and Exsel Group to which I am a director, the public is key though.”

Although Gartcairn have had a couple of decent results against Ardeer Thistle and Albion Rovers, Craig hasn’t read too much into these other than as a good pre season workouts, “We don’t look to much into friendlies, as playing at Forth Wanderers or Cambuslang Rangers will be a much stiffer test than any friendly we will have had. It’s great to get the boys together and get minutes into the legs, we have experienced players at the club in Scott Murphy, Stuart Easton, Barry Canning and Stuart McFarlane to name but a few.
“These guys are keeping the rest well informed of what needs to be done, even Tam McManus and Jamie Pollock will take time to play in the second division as it’s very different from what they are used to.”

On their first home game against an Albion Rovers select at Airdrieonians Excelsior Stadium and his thoughts on the possibility of regular Friday night football
“Friday was great for the full academy and we attracted over four hundred and fifty people, Friday night football is brilliant as it allows the Airdrie, Albion Rovers and local amateur players who all play on a Saturday afternoon to be able to come and watch a game.
“It’s also great for local business as I believe the chip shop and a few bars were delighted with the extra custom. “I don’t believe we should take away all Saturday football but maybe once per month would do no harm whatsoever.”

And finally on the ability of Gartcairn to build and sustain a support “The academy has over six hundred kids and three hundred adults including amateur players. Add all the parents to this and we are way over two thousand. The general public in Monklands added to that suggests we are well capable of building a huge support, however we understand it needs to be different.
“We know that people will continue to come if they are entertained and it’s at a decent price. It helps that we have lots of local lads there as well as this will attract a good support on top of what we have with their families and friends.”

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