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Caithness News Bulletins February 2004

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Rod Houston, depute head teacher at Golspie High School who has had a long involvement in schools' football at a national level and is a former manager of Brora Rangers Football Club, took up a new position as development manager of the Highland Football Academy.

Rod (52) has been seconded by The Highland Council to spearhead the development of the academy and to promote its use as a Highland-wide resource. The academy involves an indoor football arena at Dingwall, which is now operational, and two grass football pitches nearby which have been laid but are not yet in use. At Inverness, a floodlit all weather pitch is planned at Charleston, Inverness, while two grass pitches have been laid nearby but are not yet in use.

A holder of an Honours degree and a Doctorate from Edinburgh University, Rod is a geography teacher to trade and was promoted assistant head teacher at Golspie in 1987 and depute head teacher in 1999.

He holds the Scottish Football Association's B Licence and is currently working towards his UEFA Youth Licence. He has experience of coaching and scouting at Highland League and Scottish League levels, as well as in the SFL Youth Initiative and has a long involvement in schools' football, including coaching regional selects and SSFA national squads.

He is married with two daughters. Rowan is studying to be a primary school teacher while Valerie works in the bank. Both daughters share dad's love of football, Rowan being an avid Ross County fan, while Valerie played for Inverness Caledonian Thistle Under 16 Girls when they won the Scottish Cup. Rod says his wife Helen has grown to like the game!

Rod said: "I am looking forward greatly to this new challenge of promoting excellence in the game and the provision of top class facilities for the Highland footballing community. The excellent indoor arena at Dingwall is already proving very popular and we are very encouraged by the usage. I have no doubts that once we have all the facilities up and running at Dingwall and Inverness we will have a wonderful asset."

Bruce Robertson, Director of Education Culture and Sport with The Highland Council, said: "Rod is well known and well respected by the footballing community in the Highlands and I am sure he will do an excellent job in promoting the Academy.

"He brings to the job a vast experience as a football coach, a very good knowledge of the football scene in the Highlands and strong communication skills. These are all attributes that will benefit the development of the Football Academy."

The Highland Football Academy is a 2.1 million project, supported by the Scottish Executive and sportscotland and promoted by The Highland Council, Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Ross County.

At Dingwall, an indoor arena has been built on land leased over a 40-year period by Ross County Football Club to the Highland Football Academy. The arena is now operational and the day-to-day administration is being managed by Ross and Cromarty Sports Council. Two high specification grass pitches have been laid nearby on land owned by the council. These are not yet in use.

At Charleston, Inverness, two high specification football pitches have been prepared but are not yet in use. It is hoped that work will commence on a floodlit all weather pitch in the Easter. Bookings will be administered by the Charleston Academy Community Complex Management Committee.

The Highland Football Academy Trustees are Jock Watt, Dingwall, and Colin Baillie, Inverness. The trust is an independent company with charitable status, which is limited by guarantee. There is also an advisory board comprising representatives of the football clubs and the council as well as sportscotland. A review is currently being made of the membership of the Trust.

Most of the funding for the Academy has come from the Sports Lottery, the Football Pools Betting Fund and the Scottish Football Partnership. Ross and Cromarty Enterprise and Inverness and Nairn Enterprise have contributed 600,000 and The Highland Council, 81,000.

Rod Houston has been seconded from his position at Golspie High School to become development manager of the Academy. Rod's challenge will be to ensure the Football Academy meets it's twin aims of promoting excellence in the game and the provision of top class facilities for Highland League teams in the areas as well as community teams and community groups throughout the Highlands. His first task will be to organise an open day in Dingwall next month to enable clubs and interested members of the public to view the Academy's excellent indoor facilities.

An official opening of the Academy is planned in the near future.