Kai Fotheringham is certain his precocious pals at Dundee United will rise to the challenge of Premiership football.
And the 18-year-old fully intends to use a formative campaign at Raith Rovers as a springboard to join them in the Tannadice first-team.
Fotheringham penned a season-long loan with the promotion hopefuls earlier this week.
He is relishing the opportunity to hone his skills with one of the Championship’s most free-flowing, attacking outfits, managed by John McGlynn, a coach committed to possession-based football.
“I had an alright pre-season but I felt — and the club [Dundee United] felt — that a loan move would be the right option,” Fotheringham told Courier Sport.
“I spoke to [loans manager] Brian Grant and they had already fielded a couple of offers. From then, it was up to me to decide where would be the right destination for me.
“It’s not like I am going to a low league. There is a lot of quality in the Championship. I’m still only 18 and to develop at a club aiming to be in the playoffs is ideal.
“I want a positive season under my belt ahead of breaking into the Dundee United first-team next season. I know I need to work hard and cement my place with Raith Rovers first — but that’s ultimately the plan.”
The switch to Stark’s Park came after repeated dialogue with United boss Tam Courts and assistant Liam Fox. Fotheringham remains a prized prospect at Tannadice and they were keen to ensure he picked the right club — and boss.
“I had a chat with the gaffer [Tam Courts] and Foxy [Liam Fox, United assistant] about it,” continued Fotheringham. “Foxy assured me that I would fit into the playing style and, given that reassurance, I was eager to get it done.
“Liam Smith played under John McGlynn [with Hearts] and raved about his coaching and boys like Adam King and Marc McNulty told me he was a brilliant coach. When you have so many people saying the same thing, it really makes it an easy decision.
“I know he’s willing to give young players a chance. Kai Kennedy played a lot of games on loan last years and Dylan Tait is a regular after coming through Fife Elite, so you can see a pathway and I’m ready to fight for my place.”
From Bairns to men
Fotheringham has already had one loan stint away from United and, in terms of a baptism of fire, things could barely have been more toasty.
The teenager and fellow United kid Lewis Neilson spent the final two months of last season at Falkirk and, despite a bright start, were party to a capitulation of staggering proportions.
The Bairns went from top of the table to not even making the playoffs.
But it speaks to Fotheringham’s desire to learn and grow that he is quick to accentuate the positives.
“It was challenging for myself and Lewis [Neilson]; both young boys and in quite a pressurised situation,” he continued. “It was an environment where there was a lot of expectation and scrutiny, especially from the fans.
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“However, that builds up your mentality as a player and you learn a lot more in that situation than you would, for example, playing academy football.
“The fact is we sort of crumbled and that was bitterly disappointing. But I’m ready to take some of those tougher lessons, build and come back a better player this season.”
The kids are alright
And should Fotheringham impress sufficiently with Raith to become a first-team regular at Tannadice in the fullness of time, he reckons the likes of Kerr Smith, Logan Chalmers and Chris Mochrie will be there to greet him in the dressing room.
A swathe of United’s youngsters are set to be given the chance to sink or swim in the coming campaign — and Fotheringham fully expects them to thrive.
“A lot of the young boys are going to get their opportunity under Tam and they’ll be ready,” he added. “During pre-season, I could see a few of them really standing out and doing well.
“Guys like Chris Mochrie, Lewis Neilson and Kerr Smith are doing really well and rightly getting the plaudits. Logan Chalmers has just signed a new deal and has been absolutely immense in pre-season.
“There’s no sense of disappointment that I’m not there with them — I know I’m still young and I’m at a great club to hone my skills — and I want to see them all do fantastically well and properly kick on at United.”