WHEN Scott Allison was asked to sit down with Gerry Britton and map out how much a viable youth programme would cost Partick Thistle to run, little did he think that five years later, a cheque for £600,000 would be presented to him as head of their very own academy.

But thanks to the vision and drive of the likes of manager Alan Archibald, former chairman David Beattie, new chief executive Britton and not least, the generosity of Euromillions winners Colin and Christine Weir, that is exactly where he finds himself.

Allison took the step up to take over the running of the Thistle Weir Academy in the summer after Britton’s elevation to succeed Ian Maxwell, and among his first duties was to immediately accept a sum that will ensure its viability for the next three years at least.

And he couldn’t be happier that the development of homegrown talent has now become such an integral part of Thistle’s identity.

“When Alan Archibald was appointed manager, he felt it was crucial to have a youth system in place for the benefit not only of the first team, but the club as a whole,” said Allison.

“David Beattie asked myself and Gerry to cost it up, and then, one day, he came back to us and said he had secured investment through the Weir family. We are so grateful to them.

“We have to make sure that we make it sustainable now, and this gives us time to do that and secure the long-term future of the academy.

“Five years ago, we could never have imagined the professional set-up that we have now would be in place, and we have to thank the Weirs for making that possible.

“I was first at Thistle in 2003/04, and the club got relegated from the top-flight. The youth programme was very much an add-on at the side, and then it disappeared.

“The club suffered because of that for a long time, and it maybe took 10 years before we got back to a stage where youth development was back on the map.

“It’s credit to Alan, because he really drove that and now everybody at the club sees youth development as key to the long-term strategy.

“Jacqui Low, the new chairman, is a massive supporter of youth development, and with Gerry now being the chief executive, it has just really become embedded in the club.

“For any young player that is thinking of coming to the club or is already in the system, it is such a positive to know that there is massive support from the boardroom to the manager’s office for seeing young players making it through to the first-team.”

More than a few already have. Liam Lindsay and Jack Hendry have been sold on, while Andy McCarthy, James Penrice and Aidan Fitzpatrick are currently in and around the first-team picture.

Allison believes that is vital to the long-term success of the club, but he also recognises that the academy’s role is not simply about sculpting the Thistle stars of the future.

“From a fan’s perspective, they will always want to see boys going into the first-team, and of course that is one of our objectives,” he said. “But it isn’t the whole objective.

“The academy is very much about community engagement as well, and a lot of the kids in the system at the minute are getting the chance to play with a Partick Thistle badge on their chest.

“A lot of the young teams have had trips abroad, life-changing experiences to places like Turkey and Portugal, and we’re going to Iceland this summer this year.

“So, even if they don’t get to the level of our first-team, if they get a path into professional football, then great. And if they don’t, then they will have lifelong memories from their experiences in the academy, and that is also a positive outcome.

“And we can point to James Penrice, Andy McCarthy and Aidan Fitzpatrick now as role models for the kids. We can say to them that five years ago, these guys were in your position.”

Former Partick Thistle chief executive and now SFA chief Ian Maxwell was critical of aspects of Project Brave while at Firhill, but the early signs have been positive for Allison.

“I believe that Project Brave is a good thing,” he said. “So far, the changes have been well received.

“In Scotland, all the clubs felt the gap between under-17s and under-20s had to be bridged, because a lot of players were falling out of the system at that stage.

“We now have an under-18s team which we never had before, and that bridges the gap to the old under 20s having the 18s and now the reserves.

“From the under-16s down, they now do a January through to December programme rather than the traditional season.

“We seem to be getting a lot of things right at Thistle and are seeing results, so I want to maintain that, but I also want to keep freshening things up through Project Brave.”