Dundee U/18 coach Scott Robertson has challenged his youngsters not just to emulate players like Max Anderson and Josh Mulligan – he wants his current crop of kids to surpass them.
The former Dens Park academy graduate was delighted to see a group of development players put pen to paper on new deals with the Dark Blues last week.
Among them was defender Luke Graham, who had a trial with Sheffield United in April and drew the interest of scouts from Arsenal, Rangers and Celtic.
Robertson insists there is “real potential” in the group to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Anderson, Mulligan and Harry Sharp.
All three enjoyed debut seasons in the top flight last term with Anderson a regular in midfield and the latter two making an impact late in the campaign.
‘It’s not a waiting game’
Robertson’s development squad is back in for pre-season over the next couple of weeks and he’s keen to push the youngsters on to become first-team options.
“It’s always down to the boys to impress,” former Scotland man Robertson said.
“They have to impact games, whether that is in the development side or when they get a chance at first-team level.
“There will be a new manager in for next season so it’s up to the players to make him take notice.
“All they’ve done now is extended their stay at the club, there will be no taking the foot off the gas.
“The boys have to push on from here – they may have another contract here but they need to improve to reach the first team.
“It’s a really competitive group we have and they look at guys like Max Anderson and Josh Mulligan doing well and want to emulate that.
“But I don’t want them to wait for a chance, it is not a waiting game.
“The development boys should look at those guys as examples but they should also want to take their place.
“It comes down to who is the best player and we want to make our youngsters the best they can be.”
Staff across the academy set-up, through Stephen Wright’s younger age groups and into Robertson’s development squad are not just focusing on helping kids on the pitch.
A tie-in with former SFA Performance School St John’s Academy allows the club to combine training with school work.
They also invited world-renowned leadership consultant and sports performance expert Allistair McCaw to talk to the academy.
— Dundee Football Club (@DundeeFC) April 29, 2022
And Robertson is keen to ensure his players emerge from the Dundee youth set-up, whether they make it to the first team or not, are well-rounded individuals.
“The group as a whole is full of good people,” he added.
“I’ve had so many of the staff at the club mention how polite, respectful and helpful the young lads are. They are all really hard working, which is great.
“It is a fundamental that we have good people. If you’ve got that then they are capable of changing and adapting and improving.
“They are all willing to work and push on to improve.
“But it all comes down now to them showing they are capable.
“Our aim is to produce players that can make an impact at first-team level. And then be able to improve again and reach even higher.
“It is a really good group to work with. There is real potential, too.
“I’m not saying any will be jumping straight into the first team soon but the space for improvement is there.
“At this club there won’t be any token gestures, the young players have to be good enough to get a first-team chance.
“There will be a chance for them to contribute but it is up to the players themselves.”