Big defender Jack McDowall got his first taste of the senior game last year at the Braves. He has signed back up for the 2020/21 Lowland League season and is really excited to kick on again after a very good year for the 19 year-old.
Jack went through the youth academy at Celtic from Under 11s up until Under 17s level. In the modern game we are now seeing many young players being released from the big clubs youth academies early if they are not making the impact to go straight into the first team.
We caught up with Jack to find out his views on this has he experienced it first hand playing with Celtic and Partick Thistle.
What was it like coming through Celtic’s youth academy and being part of the conveyor belt of young players who don’t quite make it into the first team?
I was a Celtic from Under 11s-17s. I think the first few years you are there, you are enjoying yourself, you don’t really think too much about the future and then when it goes full time you obviously start to consider it.
I think anyone with their head screwed on knows how difficult it is to break through and a small percentage actually makes it through. Me personally, I made sure I had my grades at school and back up plans, I was always aware that there are different ways to progress myself as a footballer.
I'm really happy I have ended up here, the Lowland League has been great, it's taught me so much already. Senior football is completely different from academy so I’ve learned a lot more.
Was there players at your level getting more chances than you at Celtic?
When you get U17 level, you find a lot of boys are called up to train with the First Team or U20s. I alway saw myself as something in between the two. I never got the chance to train with the first team. People progress at different ages and I’m still only 19, I still have a lot of progression to do.
Did you look up to Virgil Van Dijk when you were going through the youth system?
Definitely, I mostly looked up to other players at the time like Sergio Ramos. Van Dijk is obviously grown to be the best in the world so it was good to look up to him. I think at any club you need look up to the best player in your position in the first team to learn from them.
What was it like moving on to Partick Thistle?
It was a different environment to Celtic, the way they trained was different. Obviously Celtic is the top tier, everything is done for you and you had to fend for yourself in a way. It was good to learn how to adjust to being at a different club and I was playing with players my own age so it was a good learning curve.
You ended up here at the Braves, you have always said how good the manager has been for you, how would you sum up the year personally?
There was a lot of uncertainty when I joined because I didn’t know what to expect, it was very competitive with teams on-par with each other, which showed me the difference with senior and youth football. There is more mentality and aggression which is something I need to add to my game as well as the speed of play etc. I definitely learned a lot more last year than I ever have and I was just finding my feet, I want to really kick on for this season.
Players come from different avenues into the senior game, do you think your route helped you progress the best for you?
Yeah I definitely think for me it was good. I think the mixture in the team is great with that, especially the older boys coming from different aspects of the game, they can really help the younger players because of all their experiences. It’s probably been the best part for me learning about how the game is played from all different avenues into football.
You can watch Jack’s re-signing interview over on BRAVES TV now!