The St. Louis Lions, currently in their sixth season in the USL’s Premier Development League (PDL), officially announced today that the organization has reached an agreement to affiliate with iconic Glasgow club Celtic F. C.
The Lions are the top of the pyramid formed by the Tony Glavin Soccer Club (youth programs) and the Lions Elite Academy (boys U-13, U-14 and U-15). The affiliation between the Lions and Celtic is the first to be announced of several similar partnerships that Celtic is entering with other soccer organizations in the U.S. and globally.
The Lions are owned and coached by Tony Glavin, a former NASL and MISL player. Glavin, 53, grew up in Glasgow as a Celtic fan, with family members heading the supporter’s association. His older brother Ronnie was a member of Celtic championship teams in the mid-1970s, while Tony worked in the program shop at Celtic Park as a youngster before beginning his own professional career with the NASL’s Philadelphia Fury. The Bhoys of Celtic were established in 1888 and have won 42 Scottish League Championships and 35 Scottish Cups.
“Partnering with the Celtic Football Club has been a dream having been a lifelong Celtic fan, and will bring endless opportunities to our players,” says Glavin. “We will blend the cultures and share developmental training programs, making it the best of both worlds,” Glavin added.
The formation of this partnership didn’t happen overnight. Glavin has worked towards this partnership for over two years. The academies will keep their current names, as they have developed a regional brand over nearly 20 years, and will send a team each year overseas Scotland for training and games.
“For the first time in St. Louis, there will be a clearly defined path within one organization that will offer soccer players primary training to premier league play,” says Glavin. “Players will also have the chance to be scouted by Celtic FC coaches and trainers, and will travel to Scotland and the UK for play.” Last summer a team of 13-14-year-olds from the Lions Academy spent ten days in Scotland, training with Celtic coaches and playing five matches. Many of the players on that squad were members of this year’s Academy team that were runners-up in the Missouri U-14 State Championship.
The partnership has a very organic feel to anyone who has been to the Lions’ complex, which houses five fields, with plans for expansion in the works. The Green and White colors are everywhere, and the club wear the familiar hoops-type green and white kit. Glavin’s Glasgow accent is readily apparent despite living in the U.S. for 33 years, and the excitement within the Lions’ organization is palpable.
And what’s in it for Celtic? Besides greater brand recognition (the club boasts over nine million fans worldwide), the answer is simple. According to Lions’ GM Jim Shipley, “Celtic are looking for talent all over the world. They recognize that the U.S. is an under-utilized base for talent, and the club wants to be able to identify and help develop top players, like Fulham’s Clint Dempsey.”
Celtic FC International Development Officer and Youth Academy Coach Greig Robertson will be in the St. Louis area on Monday, June 27 to head a public information session about the partnership between the clubs. The session will be held at the Lindenwood University Performance Arena at 7:00 pm for fans interested in attending.
The Lions compete in the Heartland Division of the PDL.