It’s with an understated modesty that George Paterson rhymes off a who’s who of Scottish football that are regulars through his door.
“I don’t want to sound like it’s a boast but most professional clubs in the country will have a player who’s been at Ultimate Soccer at some point,” he says. The founder of the Glasgow-based community coaching company has the motto: Harder, Faster, Stronger. And a client list to die for. Everton’s Nathan Patterson, Hull City’s Greg Docherty, Rangers starlet Alex Lowry and Brighton’s Marc Leonard to name but a few who have attended this summer’s sports lab sessions.
It has been over two decades since the current Albion Rovers assistant boss launched his business and he admits it’s about catering to each footballer’s needs. He said: “It all comes down to the individual client – it’s a bit like that player hiring a chef. He doesn’t need to ask that chef if Everton are happy with me eating this or that. Nathan Patterson, Allan Campbell or Greg Docherty aren’t coming to me to become super fit – they already know what works for them. They come to work with our team to make sure they feel that bit fitter and faster when they return for pre-season.
“We had Fraser Murray in with us and he returned to Kilmarnock in such good shape, his boss asked him: ‘What have you been doing in the summer?’ These boys are playing at a level where they know they need to be fit right throughout the year. You can’t just shut down for a few months.
“James Scott wanted to build his fitness for when he goes back to Exeter City so he came in for two weeks in a row. Our biggest motto is about finding a way to outwork the room. Every day is pre-season here.
“It’s also about creating the right environment as not every player has the mental strength of Greg Docherty. He came to us when he wasn’t getting a game at Rangers and worked on a few things. It wasn’t due to anything he wasn’t getting at his club – he just needed a different environment and to be told the truth, even if it’s a brutal truth.
“Others need an arm around them and to be told not to worry so much.”
The Covid pandemic resulted in careers becoming stalled as the game at all levels was put on hold. But Paterson believes his business bucked the trend and found a gap in the coaching market at a time when no ball games were allowed.
He said: “Covid had a huge impact on our business but in a positive way. When the pandemic hit, a lot of teams stopped training yet players were still expected to be ready when it got back to normal.
“All of a sudden some didn’t have a job any more. They also knew they wouldn’t find a club when it was time to go again if they weren’t in good condition.
“During that Covid spell we contacted the Government’s Department for Work and Pensions and did a kickstart
programme that involved employing players who were out of contract and we skilled them up to become coaches.
“Out of those five or six boys the most successful was Alfie Agyeman who got a deal with Kelty Hearts that summer and is now full-time at Falkirk.
“It’s about giving these kids some help. We have Chris McQueen who was with Celtic and didn’t play for a year because he couldn’t find a level but now he’s down south playing for Weymouth FC.
“Olly McDonald came in to work with us. He was at Clyde last season but is another example of a player who benefited from the kickstart programme.
“It gave him six months and more to make sure when the opportunity to play arrived, he was ready. It’s a combination of elite players and also those nearing a point of last resort.”
The former Morton youth player and Glasgow Girls coach also preaches a mantra of trust and continuity with his clients and cites a couple of talents who have used his pathway to find success. He said: “We are building from pre-school right through so we have kids with us all the way through the pathway.
“We have a player called Cormac Daly who’s at Hamilton and there’s a good chance he’ll get a big move down south. So he has been building his profile all the way through his time with us.
“It’s the same with boys such as Max Johnston and Marc Leonard who we’ve worked with since they were 14-year-olds so a level of trust is built up with myself and my coaching team.
“Other players watch the development and progress of Max and Marc and it all builds from there. There are brilliant coaches here to help, none more so than Jamie McNee.
“We developed a sports lab and brought sports science into it. We do the typical testing sessions most clubs do and introduced top technology into that. We build the sessions around getting fitter, faster and stronger.”
Paterson is also well aware that Ultimate Soccer isn’t just about the elite, it can also be a point of last resort. He said: “We get kids who come out of Rangers and Celtic and are just needing a bit of guidance and advice.
“It’s not realistic for many just to drop into a Championship club. Nothing is guaranteed. For many, the next level will be at the likes of Albion Rovers. We try to help them find a level to keep playing.”