Andrew MacDonald talks to U20 duo Kyle Banner and Ronan Fallens about the current season, first-team action and Scotland Schoolboys.
Centre-back Kyle Banner and goalkeeper Ronan Fallens have been a permanent fixture in Andy Todd’s U20 squad so far this season.
Banner, a tall defender who likes to get on the ball, described the team’s start to the season by saying: “It’s not been great so far, our home form has really let us down this season. We have the talent to push on and climb the Development League East table. We had some really good results against Cowdenbeath, and LTHV and Cumbernauld Colts in the cup, the sort of performances we need to produce on a more regular basis.”
Fallens, whose greatest quality is his excellent shot-stopping ability, agreed that the Scottish Youth
Cup results have been excellent, as he states his ambitions for the competition this season.
He said: “After the wins against LTHV and Cumbernauld Colts in the second and third rounds, it’s quite likely we’ll be drawn against a full-time team in the fourth. This is a challenge I’d relish, we certainly wouldn’t roll over for a ‘bigger team’, we’d look to take the game to them and we’ll hopefully go far in the competition this year.”
Both Banner and Fallens have been involved in the Binos first-team squad. Banner, a sporadic fixture in Dave Mackay’s squads this season, described his involvement: “It’s been a great boost to my confidence. The first-team players have been really welcoming and it’s been great to even be involved in matchday squads. It was different class making my professional debut against Falkirk in the Betfred Cup, I’m really enjoying the first-team atmosphere when I get the chance to be involved.”
Fallens recalls his first involvement with the top team: “It was a strange day. At the time I was in my first year of the U17 team. I was out playing football with my friends one Saturday afternoon when I got a call from Stuart McLaren, telling me I was needed for the bench that day – as the sub keeper at the time had taken ill. I definitely felt the pressure of a professional football setting that day, trying to get myself in the right mindset in case I was required to play. Since then I’ve been on the bench quite a few times and I feel like it’s prepared me for a scenario where I could play.”
Banner is no stranger to positions of leadership. He was named vice-captain of the U20 squad by Andy Todd this season, as well as being Scotland Schoolboys captain in his final year of school. He recounts his experience of captaining the Schoolboys as: “a great honour, to know you’ve been trusted to lead boys out, especially in an international match. It was amazing to travel across to Ireland and down to England and Wales. A great experience all in all.”
Fallens was also involved in the Schoolboys set up last year. He feels like the experience has developed his playing abilities: “I definitely feel like I’ve gained more of a confidence in my game. To know you’ve been deemed to be the best out of everyone in Scottish schools is a great feeling. We came up against top opposition, who were also the best of the best in school.”
The boys conclude by discussing their aims as a team and individually for the season. Banner said: “Like I say, I feel our form at Forthbank has to improve, it’s not what it was last season. We should be finishing as high as we possibly can. Individually I feel like I just need to keep pushing for that first team, I’ll keep training hard and hope for more appearances on the bench and you never know, maybe even out on the park.”
Fallens said: “I’d love to go on an extended cup run and just iron out the kinks in my game, get as many clean sheets as possible and continue to experience that first-team environment when I can. If I train hard I can hopefully get there.”