Fraser Stewart learned his trade under one of Scotland’s greatest goalkeepers.
Now, the former Aberdeen youngster is in charge of bringing through the next generation of top stoppers.
Stewart was a young goalkeeper with the Dons and worked closely with Jim Leighton, a Gothenburg Great at Pittodrie and also a long-serving international with the Scotland national team.
But since dropping out of full-time football a decade ago, Stewart has been forging a new career in coaching and is now head of goalkeeping for the Scottish FA.
Throughout his coaching journey, Leighton was remained a reliable confidante and Stewart looks back on his time at Aberdeen with great fondness.
He said: “Jim was excellent. He was a hard task-master and he would work you hard.
“But working with an Aberdeen and Scotland goalkeeping legend, there were a lot of experiences he could pass on.
“He is a mentor to myself and I still speak to him. He had us from a young age and we would help him in coaching the academy – at 17 and 18 you were thinking about coaching
“Jimmy Calderwood was the manager at the time and the youth team was under Neil Cooper, who is a fantastic man and again was hard and fair.
“He treated young players with respect but you had to earn it.
“Jimmy Nicholl was there as well and he would spend time watching the youth team.
“Aberdeen had a good staff at a successful time for the club, with Jimmy (Calderwood) having them in Europe.”
After leaving the Dons in 2007, he played part-time at Ayr United before a stint playing and coaching in New Zealand.
Stewart earned his coaching spurs in the youth systems at Aberdeen, Rangers, Kilmarnock, Ayr United and Morton, before moving into the Performance School programme in 2012.
He was appointed head of goalkeeping for the SFA in August 2017, with his role combining coaching for Scotland’s youth sides and women’s national sides, as well as overseeing coach education and Performance School pathways for goalkeepers.
Regular visits to Scottish clubs are undertaken, to meet goalkeeping coaches and discuss any additional support they need.
Stewart also ensures the practices carried out through the Performance Schools are uniform, so the national coaching set-up is following the same methods.
“It’s challenging and there are a lot of bases to cover,” added Stewart. “But I wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It’s important what we do in the schools prepares them for the eventuality of getting into the national squads. The clubs have to know what we’re looking for and try to implement that within their own clubs.
“Since Malky Mackay came in (as SFA performance director) he’s been really good and valued it as a full-time position.
“The goalkeeping fraternity has always been close but I think it’s been useful having one person to go to if you need to find things out.”
Stewart was back in the Granite City last week, alongside Scotland U17 head coach and Performance School manager Brian McLaughlin, for the final regional trial for the intake of prospective 2020 pupils.
The best of the regions youngsters, from boys clubs and professional sides, were at Aberdeen Sports Village in a bid to win places at the SFA’s Performance School in the region, Hazlehead Academy.
Those who impressed will progress to a final national trial this month at Toryglen, where players from all seven Performance School areas will come together.
“These trials are always good, as the kids are full of enthusiasm and desperate to do well,” said Stewart.