Dundee United academy chief Andy Goldie has praised boss Micky Mellon for giving youth a chance this season and is challenging his tangerine kids to repay that faith.
The likes of Logan Chalmers, Kieran Freeman and Lewis Neilson have enjoyed breakthrough seasons, while Jamie Robson and Louis Appere are now established first-team fixtures at United.
Others such as Kai Fotheringham and Chris Mochrie have also made strides forward this term with more starlets developing on loan.
Goldie believes their success is down to the work done by both his academy and the top-team coaching staff.
“I think we’re the most or maybe the second-most successful academy in terms of youth players getting minutes in the SPFL this season,” he said.
“We’ve had eight academy graduates playing with Lewis Neilson, Kieran Freeman and Kai Fotheringham making debuts.
“At St Johnstone the other weekend we had a further two U/18s – Darren Watson and Adam Hutchinson – on the bench. That gives us five boys who should still be playing U/18s football involved in the first-team squad this season.
“That’s fantastic and great credit to Micky for having the confidence to go and put these lads in and give them their opportunity.
“It’s now up to them to make sure they repay that.
“There’s a lot of development going on outwith the club with our graduates as well.
“Chris Mochrie made his first competitive start out on loan at Montrose, Kieran is doing well and we’ve got Ross Graham at Cove Rangers, Archie Meekison at Spartans and Jake Davidson over at Waterford in Ireland.
“It’s really unfortunate with Deco (Declan Glass) and his ACL injury but he’ll come back stronger, of that I’ve no doubt.”
The kids are all right – but work still to do
Last week was a milestone for former SFA Performance School coach Goldie and his academy – with Thursday marking one year of SFA Elite status.
Since taking over the reins of the Tannadice youth set-up over 18 months ago now, Goldie has overseen great improvements but insists more work will need to be done after the coronavirus pandemic stalled their progress.
The 35-year-old added: “We worked so hard to get the club Elite status – we started in January, played three games and were straight into lockdown, unfortunately.
“We’ve not fully come out of that yet to fully reap the benefits of the Additional Games Programme but, in terms of the infrastructure and support we’ve got around the players, that’s remained at an elite level.
“We’re still delivering the full programme that got us into that category and it’s been great to see the young players continue to engage in that regardless of all the distractions and restrictions.
“We have changed our mindset just now. We know we’re currently in a period of adversity and where there’s not a lot of certainty in the world just now so, first and foremost, it’s been about looking after the wellbeing of the players.
“As a staff, I think some of the best ideas can come when you have to get creative and we’ve had some fantastic activity going on even though Club Academy Scotland is currently suspended.
“We’ve had some in-house games, players taking teams, mixed age groups, different formats and we’ve got 20-odd players that can’t travel to Dundee at the moment but, thankfully, we’ve got coaches delivering in those areas now.
“There’s no player that’s missed out – they’ve continued to get the benefits of an elite programme.
“The U/18s have been playing local junior sides. That was a great experience for them, playing against people they wouldn’t usually get the opportunity to.
“We had two 14-year-olds, two 15-year-olds in that team – they’re progressing up the age groups.
“We’re getting a lot of success and looking forward to having the programme back up and running again.”