THEY are working hard to nurture future generations and have already helped several Clacks youngsters reach the Wasps first team.

Now, the chiefs of Alloa Athletic's youth set-up have reiterated the club's commitment to the long term project of the academy.

Father and son duo Derek and Max Nicholson say they were never in doubt about the future of the Wasps' young stars, despite the difficulties brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic.

League One Airdrieonians and Falkirk took the decision to curtail their youth academies for the year, raising concern across the country others could follow suit.

But, this was never on the cards at The Recs with the pair working closely with club supremos to find a way to continue the progress made in recent years since former boss Jim Goodwin revolutionised the academy set-up.

"It was never, ever on anyone's mind we wouldn't come back," Max, the club's development officer, told Advertiser Sport as he discussed how the academy has coped with the pandemic. "I know there are some unfortunate decision which have been made elsewhere.

"The pathway is vital to the success of a club like Alloa. There needs to be a production line of players to be ready for the first team when they are 18.

"We've got a very supportive group of people around us who share that view and there's never been any doubt in our mind about us coming back."

Players have been slowly returning to training this week amid a host of Covid-19 safety measures set out by the Scottish FA, which will see youngsters having to stay two metres from coaches, bring their own hand sanitiser, and be restricted to contact within a set space.

It might look and feel a little different, but the commitment given by chairman Mike Mulraney and the rest of Alloa's board means the kids can still dream of following in the footsteps of Cammy O'Donnell or Nathan Gilhooly, who both made the step up to the first team last season.

"It's fairly short-sighted for clubs to do that [shut down their academy]," said former Dunfermline Athletic and Cowdenbeath coach Derek. "Where else are you going to find your players? Clubs like Alloa, where we don't necessarily have that scouting set-up to go find these players, we do get them.

"We've had a lot of emails from players and I even had one from a guy down south earlier this month who wanted to know if we would be keen.

"People are hearing good things about our academy and we've had coaches coming to us asking if we could take on their players.

"That's down to the hard work of everyone and the fact we now have that pathway in place."

Like clubs across the country, the Wasps academy has had to adapt to life without close contact and weekly training sessions on the pitch.

It's been a challenge, admit Derek and Max, but one which will benefit the players – and the coaches – in the long run.

"It has kept us coaches on our toes for sure and challenges us in a different way from before," Max said. "A lot of sessions we could do in the past might not translate to a video session or to a diagram you are sending across.

"Our players have had to learn self-discipline and self-motivation to go out and work, to be dedicated to fine tune their craft and the expectations they need to meet.

"They've stepped up and we are so proud of them.

"We always put the person before the player and that's a big ethos of mine and the club in general. We've asked people to check in on each other and make sure they are looking after the guys who haven't handled this period as well.

"We've had a number of conversations outwith football with players just to check in and make sure they are alright if they have been having a difficult time.

"As people, there's been a hell of a lot of growth and resilience built up in the last few months. It will stand them in good stead to handle whatever life throws at them."

One man who won't be back this year is academy coach Owen Kelly, who took the decision to retire earlier this summer. He's someone who will be missed by everyone, according to his former boss.

"He's been great since I came in," Derek said. "He has a great rapport with the boys and a great deal of respect to them. He won't be a stranger, that's for sure."