James McPake has revealed he was so convinced of the potential of two of Dundee’s kids, he felt they were ready to make their first-team debuts at the tender age of just 15.
The former defender has been coaching the club’s youngsters since he had to hang up his boots because of a serious knee injury and he knows first hand just how much promise some of them have.
So when he was appointed interim boss last week following the sacking of Jim McIntyre, he had no hesitation in handing a starting debut to 16-year-old Finn Robertson against St Mirren at Dens with fellow youngsters Josh Mulligan, Max Anderson and Lyall Cameron on the bench.
Robertson, who is still at school, certainly did not look out of place in the Dark Blues midfield and he came off to a standing ovation in the 70th minute to be replaced by Mulligan, who is also 16.
McPake is one of the favourites to become Dundee manager on a permanent basis but no matter what happens with himself, he is convinced the future is bright at Dens with this current crop of kids.
The former Hibs centre-half said: “When you walk off training and the senior players are saying, ‘Wow! What about him?’ then it shows you the young lads have quality.
“When Neil (McCann) was the manager I phoned Hampden to ask permission for two 15-year-olds to play in the Betfred Cup and the answer was no.
“But that tells you what we think of the young lads at the club.
“I don’t know if they would have started the game – that would have been Neil’s call – but they were definitely in the plans.
“The senior players here know how good they are, they have seen them training with us and have been impressed.”
McPake added: “We won’t put too much pressure on them, they’re still young.
“The easy bit is getting into a first-team environment, the tough bit is staying there.
“You can only bring boys in who can live up to the standards of training and the young lads we brought in have done that.
“They have been up there with the stats of training, they coped with it.
“I think for the future of the football club that’s good.
“I played with a few of them when they were 14 and I was coming back from injury, so saw then that they could be first-team players.
“They enjoyed getting that step up, but the hard work for them is really coming now.”