It is now four years since former Aberdeen and Rangers defender Stephen Wright took charge of the Dundee youth academy.
In that time the club have navigated a global pandemic and complete shutdown of youth football.
Now the academy is preparing to welcome their third intake of Performance School pupils at St John’s High School, are sharing expertise with local sports groups and have a “bright future” according to the man himself.
The club have also made their first steps in the female game this month.
Wright’s focus, though, is the boys game and developing players for the first team at Dens Park since arriving from Rangers in February 2019.
“I’ve now been in this job four years and I’m really pleased with the work that’s been done in that time,” he told the Courier.
“There was a lot of good work done before I arrived but we’ve really strengthened the academy structure. That’s something we want to continue to build on.
“The link up with the Performance School at St John’s has been excellent and I’m really proud of how that has come on.
“The academy isn’t in the elite tier but we have moved up into the middle tier recently and we’re comfortable with the pace of progress.
“And looking at the first team right now there is really strong academy representation with Lyall Cameron doing really well, Josh Mulligan, Max Anderson, Fin Robertson, Harry Sharp, Sam Fisher and Cammy Kerr all featuring regularly.
“It’s been a really good season in terms of the academy.
“Our job is to develop the next batch.”
Karate and athletics link-up
To do so, the club have diversified from focusing purely on ball skills.
Their partnership with St John’s has allowed more freedom and time to concentrate on the physical side of the game.
“We have a partnership with Kanzen Karate and they help us with physical work,” Wright revealed.
“Dan Woods from Kanzen takes a weekly session and the boys work on things like core strength, conditioning, agility – things a modern player needs.
“We also have Nigel Reynolds from Hawkhill Harriers coming in to coach things we can use from athletics like running styles and techniques that can help our players.
“We want to give our young players every opportunity and to give them every tool you need to be a footballer.”
Another exciting development in the youth side of things at Dundee is the first steps of the club’s women and girls section.
A fully-fledged women’s side may be some time away just now. However, the club’s first girls team took to the pitch last week.
The U/8s were in action at Craigie Community Sports Hub in Super 5s and hopes are an U/10s side can get going in a few weeks, though new recruits are needed.
The girls received a warm welcome from fans at Dens Park last Tuesday when they toured the pitch ahead of the Championship fixture against Partick Thistle.
“We wanted to highlight just what a big thing this is for the club and how excited we are,” said James Morrison, Dundee’s head of community football.
“Some of the girls said it was the best night of their lives which was great to hear!
“Then a few days later we had our first games. We’re not an elite club, we’re just a regular girls club but the pride the girls and their parents showed when they got their strips was fantastic.
“A few of the girls hadn’t played before so it was really nice to see. Results don’t mean anything at that age but they will have learned an awful lot.
“It was a big moment for the Community Trust as well, it’s something we’ve been working towards for a long time.
“Now we have started the girls pathway at U/8s and we want to start U/10s as well. We have a few players at that age but need more to get playing games, hopefully we can do that after Easter.
“We’ve also got the women’s recreational team and hope to have a full women’s team for next season or the season after.
“But we want to make sure there is stability across the pathway and to build up as we go.”