Dundee United legend Dave Bowman has praised manager Robbie Neilson for trusting the academy talent at Tannadice.
The 55-year-old is now player transition coach at United and plays a key role in transforming youngsters into senior stars.
Louis Appere, 20, and Declan Glass, 19, have made an impression this season and former Tangerines midfielder Bowman thinks young defender Kieran Freeman, also 19, will be the next prospect to catch the eye in Neilson’s first team.
Bowman – who works closely with head of player pathway and loans Brian Grant – told Courier Sport: “You can have the best academy in the world but the bit you need is a manager who’s willing to play them.
“If you haven’t got that, it doesn’t really matter.
“Robbie believes they’re good enough and we’re lucky he’s wanting to give young boys a chance.
“You need people who are going to believe in the players and throw them in and play them.
“Granty and I talk all the time to decide what we need to do.
“Sometimes I’ll tell him we need to get players out on loan because some get to U-18 level and it becomes a comfort zone for them.
“They need to be tested all the time rather than getting too comfortable in their environment here.
“We want them to play because, as much as you want to win the youths and reserves because there’s a table, when it comes to playing, even in the juniors, you actually need to win.
“There’ll be experienced players there telling them what it’s all about, they need to win these games.”
Bowman’s praise for Neilson comes a year after United restructured its youth operations, becoming an elite club in the Scottish FA’s Project Brave scheme.
He also saluted Appere, who spent last season on loan at Broughty Athletic.
Bowman said: “He’s done it the hard way as well.
“When you ask players to go out on loan, you’ll sometimes see boys turn their nose up at clubs.
“Particularly the juniors, Louis wasn’t even going out to a league team or even a Lowland League side.
“He was going into a junior environment. I went to see him quite a few times last season and he did well.
“I was thinking ‘can he make the step up?’ and Robbie gave him the chance.
“It’s brilliant, the manager gave him a go – he’s kicked on and the rest is history.”
Bowman says the importance of a young player’s attitude should never be underestimated.
He added: “Andy Robertson is a fine example, to have come from Queen’s Park then come up here.
“From us he probably could’ve gone straight to a Liverpool or a higher team but he went to Hull and earned his stripes.
“Sometimes they want to accelerate it and get from down at E right up to A straightaway rather than working their way up.
“That’s the way it goes sometimes and I’ve seen others like wee Gauldy (Ryan Gauld).
“I’d have put my mortgage on wee Gauldy being a success at Sporting (Lisbon) eventually but, unfortunately for him, things turn out different ways.
“He’s still playing in Portugal, of course, but he was the one I thought would’ve kicked on.
“If I’d looked at Andy and Gauldy back then I’d have probably said Gauldy was the better player. It says a lot about Andy’s character as well and his real drive and determination.”