Dundee’s promising youngsters will get their opportunity to impress in the Premiership says Dens boss James McPake.
Despite moving up a level from the Championship, McPake insists he’ll never be shy in selecting inexperienced players in his team this season.
The mantra at Dens Park is “if you’re good enough, you’re old enough” and that won’t change when facing the best teams in the country.
During his two years in charge, McPake has given nine academy players their senior debuts.
Having coached the U/18 side before stepping into the first-team dugout, the former Dundee skipper knows the standard of player in the club’s youth set-up better than anyone.
And that will be music to the ears of the likes of Max Anderson and Fin Robertson who have shone in the last two seasons.
Eighteen-year-old Robertson made his comeback from injury in a weekend friendly against Forfar Athletic, replacing 20-year-old Anderson for the second half.
That’s after Robertson missed the final 17 matches of last season with an ankle problem.
McPake said: “Max was really good and it was really good to see Fin Robertson back out there.
“We’ll never be afraid of using young players, even in the Premiership.
“If you’re good enough, you’re old enough. I firmly believe that and our players have proven that.
“Ask guys like Charlie Adam and Paul McGowan whether these young guys are good enough, they work with them every day and they’ll tell you yes.
“But the players have to earn it.”
Blend of youth, experience and ‘real pace’
The Dundee plan under McPake’s stewardship has been to mix the good young players coming through with real experience.
Those nine academy products have come into a first-team containing the likes of Charlie Adam and Graham Dorrans, with over 200 English Premier League appearances to their names, Paul McGowan, who has played over 300 Scottish top-flights matches, and Liam Fontaine, who has topped 500 career appearances.
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And that’s vital says the Dens boss as he looks to blend experience with speed and energy.
McPake added: “Bear in mind Luke McCowan (23) is still young, Jordan McGhee (24) is still young.
“I think we have a great blend of real experience like Charlie Adam who’s played at the very top and Paul McGowan who has played in the Premiership most of his career, good quality young ones and real pace too.
“We saw that at Forfar. Those three goals could have gone in against any team, I don’t think any team could deal with the runs, the passes and the finishes.
More to come?
Having given nine young players their first taste of senior football, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see that number turn into double figures under McPake in the coming season.
As well as Robertson and Anderson, debuts have been handed out to Josh Mulligan, Lyall Cameron, Sam Fisher, Jack Wilkie, Cammy Blacklock, Harrison Sharp and Michael Cunningham.
As a club, Dundee feel there are more to come along the conveyer belt at Dens Park in the future.
Mulligan and Cameron have already agreed loan moves to League One Peterhead this season and there may be more heading out to gain first-team experience.
In Saturday’s friendly at Forfar, the home side gave Luke Strachan and Danny Strachan a run-out in the full-back positions with a view to loan deals.
Loons boss Gary Irvine worked with the pair during his time coaching in the youth set-up at Dens Park and was pleased with how they fared.
McPake, too, had plenty of praise for the youngsters.
“It also good to see a couple of boys of ours in the Forfar team as well who did excellent,” he added.
“Luke and Danny Strachan did a job for them.
“They trained with us all week and then playing against their team-mates a day later.
“That’s not easy.
“We want young players to develop, we believe them going out on loan helps that.
“It’s up to Gary now. From a Dundee point of view, it was great they got 45 minutes each as well.
“I’m delighted for both of them.”