A KILBIRNIE Ladeside footballer has opened up on the "unbelievable" chance he has to coach some of the country's top stars.

It comes after footballing brothers Billy and Harvey Gilmour trained with Jack 'Haggs' Haggerty during their off-season.

But it is not unusual that players of this quality came to train with Jack at his Empire Performance Coaching facility.

Haggs, who is now a business partner at the company, joined Empire shortly after moving back to Scotland.

Jack, who initially came through the youth ranks at Celtic and had a short stint at Airdrieonians, played semi-professional football in New Zealand, Australia and then Iceland before coronavirus hit and he had to come back home.

He then joined Largs Thistle, before he landed at Kilbirnie Ladeside where he continues to play now.

It was around this time he joine the company, which was initially set up in Airdrie by his business partner Malcolm, and things have grown rapidly since Jack came on board.

Empire specialise in one-to-one coaching, small group session,  team trainings and camps during the school holidays.

And it is fair to say Jack has worked alongside a fair few stars in his time there.

He said: "We have been privileged to work with some top players since starting Empire and a lot of up and coming players also.

"Jack Hendry was in during his rehab after he came back from Melbourne City and flew me out to Portugal last pre season for some warm weather training.

"Since then we’ve had the likes of Ben Doak (Liverpool), Dylan Reid (Crystal Palace), Stephen Mallan (Salford City), Stuart Findlay (Oxford United), Ricki Lamie (Motherwell), Lee Erwin (who currently plays in Lebanon) and most recently Billy and Harvey Gilmour.

"From the coaching side of things we have recently partnered up with Robbie Neilson which has been a great experience learning from someone of his calibre."

The opportunity to train the Gilmours, from Ardrossan, was one that Jack was more than delighted to take.

And it was another Scottish star from the English Premier League, like Billy Gilmour, who reccomended his coaching.

Haggs explained: "I had just finished my own pre season training with Kilbirnie when client Ben Doak texted me, saying Billy Gilmour was asking for my number and if it was okay to pass it on.

"I was with my younger brother at the time so it was class to share the news with him. 

"It was an unbelievable three days working with Billy and Harvey. For Billy to have two weeks off the full season and spend three days of it working with myself in Lochwinnoch just shows you the type of person he is and why he’s achieved what he has at such a young age.

"Everything was short, sharp, game related drills as the longer distance stuff will come when the boys go back to their clubs for pre season.

"The brotherly rivalry was there during every drill counting goals and keeping scores whilst putting in the hard work, which is what it’s all about.

"By the end of the three days we had built up a great relationship and one, like all of the other pros, that is long lasting.

"A big part of what we do is building a rapport with the players which hopefully leads to them being not only clients but friends for life."

The opportunities brought to Jack in his job is still something he cannot quite beleive, though it is something he wants to continue.

He added: "I’m just a normal lad from Lochwinnoch playing semi pro with Kilbirnie so to have the calibre of player over pre-season come to myself is unbelievable - but it’s why we do it and hope in the future to have many more come through the door."

And it is worth noting that it's not only the existing stars that Jack coaches.

He explained: "I’m living my dream not only being able to train players of Billy’s calibre but the youngsters who come in for weekly sessions and have supported me since day one - without them all of this wouldn’t be possible.

"If anyone wants anymore information on how to get started we are available on Facebook and Instagram - @empireperformancecoaching and @empireperformanceelite - to start their Empire journey."