The coronavirus shutdown may seem disastrous for Scottish football but it’s an opportunity for the country’s young players, according to Dundee boss James McPake.
Clubs up and down the land have begun releasing senior players with finances stretched during the last three months.
It’s likely many will operate with smaller squads than usual when the new season kicks off with smaller budgets enforced – and that’s where youth players will get their chance says the Dens Park boss.
Having moved up to the manager’s job from the club’s academy, McPake hasn’t been slow in blooding youngsters in his first team during his year as manager.
Eighteen-year-old Fin Robertson is a key example of that, playing 21 times and winning the club’s Young Player of the Year award while other youth players like Lyall Cameron, Max Anderson and Josh Mulligan all made appearances last season.
With lockdown restrictions keeping youngsters off the pitch right now and the majority of Dundee’s staff placed on furlough leave, manager McPake has tried to lift the spirits of the club’s youth players.
He said: “I did a few webinars for the youth academy at the start because this is an important time for them.
“Losing the months they have is significant and they’ve had to take a lot on themselves.
“But the way I see it is this is an opportunity for young players to come back in when we start again and show they’re ready to make an impact.
“Young players right across the country have to see this as a chance.
“Being a good player gets you into an academy but it’s the dedication of listening to the coaches and putting the work in that takes you to the next level.
“So while it’s been hard for the young players to miss out on their training, it’s also an opportunity.”
Despite not having the usual coaching keeping them focused, McPake and Dens technical director Gordon Strachan have both stressed to the club’s youngsters that it’s up to the kids themselves to get into the best shape possible to impress.
“Experienced players know what they have to do and how much work they need to put in,” added McPake.
“In the situation we are in right now, it’s about how much the younger ones have put into it during the shutdown.
“Not training is difficult for them, but it has also been a chance to work on their fitness, go out and practice with the ball when you can.
“I’m looking forward to seeing how they come back and how much progress they’ve made.
“Last year Fin Robertson came back in great shape, he’d got the wee boost of playing in the final game of the season and had worked at it over the summer.
“I always remember at Coventry seeing Cyrus Christie come back one summer as a 17-year-old and blitzed it.
“He was that fit and that far ahead of people he played every pre-season game then started the season.
“He’s gone on to have a great career, so it is there for the younger ones to make their impact.
“The days of players being scared to overtake the senior ones in pre-season is long in the past.
“You want to see them come in now and put a marker down. Hopefully a few of them will.”