Tam Courts would be a “revolutionary” appointment for Dundee United.
That’s the assertion of a man, in Stevie Campbell, who gave Tannadice the likes of Stuart Armstrong, Ryan Gauld and John Souttar.
The former United youth director clearly knows a thing or two about what it takes to make it in the game.
His opinion, more than most, is probably one the Terrors’ board could do with listening to as they seek a replacement for Micky Mellon – recently returned to Tranmere Rovers.
After nearly 10 years working in the Tangerines’ academy from 2006-15, Campbell says there’s no reason why budding coaches can’t follow the same pathway as young players.
Although he may not be the fans’ choice, Campbell admits he’d like to see ‘astute coach’ Courts make the step up from youth football to the first team.
Campbell likens Courts to former United man Ian Cathro who went on to coach at Rio Ave, Valencia, Newcastle, manage Hearts and is currently working with Wolves in the Premier League.
In giving Courts a shot, it would, too, accelerate the development of the Tangerines’ current crop of young stars, according to the 53-year-old.
‘They’ve spent a lot of time at United bringing through academy graduates and players so why not do the same with coaches?’
“The talk now is they’re thinking about promoting Tam,” former Dundee defender Campbell said.
“I know Tam from my Livi days, believe it or not. He was just a young guy playing at Livingston when I was there in 1996.
“I met him not that long ago and he’s turned into an incredible, young, astute coach.
“I do put him in a sort of Cathro mould. If you look at somebody like him and what he’s done in the game then why not give him a wee chance?
“If Dundee United are going down that route then they’ve got loads of guys bubbling under to call on.
“If I wasn’t away with the first team when I was there under Jackie (McNamara), after my Saturday sessions with Bow (Dave Bowman) we used to go down to Riverside and watch the Chris Mochries and Lewis Neilsons of this world.
“It’s amazing to see them now in the first team. It’s brilliant and what it’s all about.
“They’ve gone out on loan and it’s now time for them to shine like my lads did – Goody (David Goodwillie), Johnny (Russell), Scotty (Scott Allan) and Dowzer (Ryan Dow) – they all came back ready to go and make an impression on the first-team squad.
“I know it’s a gamble and only time will tell but when I look at somebody like Tam he epitomises what’s going on in the youth system at the moment.
“They’ve spent a lot of time at United bringing through academy graduates and players so why not do the same with coaches, move and be modern.
“They’ve shown that in everything they’re doing. Why not do it with the manager?
“I know most fans will go: ‘Bloody hell, Stevie, what are you saying?’
“But I’d like to see it because I’d say it’s revolutionary, it really is.”
Goldie sets the standard at United for Campbell
Pointing to current academy director Andy Goldie, Campbell says things are changing for the better in Scottish football and figures like he and Courts are more the norm than the days of Cathro’s ill-fated Hearts tenure.
Campbell likes the ambition shown by the new breed and thinks fans should be excited by their pioneering attitudes.
“I’m really interested in reading about how ambitious Andy is,” he said.
“I don’t know him too well. I came across him a couple of times in the past when he was with the SFA but he’s different.
“I keep going back to Cathro, but going back 10 years to when he was on the scene, there wasn’t so many boys like him and Andy.
“That’s becoming more apparent in Scottish football now and I think it should be.
“It’s almost like the European model and they don’t just set their sights on making players for United, they dream of and they talk about Champions League players.
“That’s great, why not?
“I think sometimes Ian was ridiculed in his younger days but he’s went on to prove people wrong in the role he’s played at Wolves and all the clubs he’s been at and the success he’s had.”
Management never tickled Stevie’s fancy
Although he wishes Courts all the best in any potential future managerial career, Campbell insists it was never a path that appealed to him.
After Peter Houston’s departure from Tannadice in 2013, Campbell flirted with the top job but admits he was relieved it never came to pass.
“I must admit, it wouldn’t have been for me in my time,” the former Brechin coach continued.
“When Houstie left, (chairman) Stephen Thompson asked me to take the Motherwell game and I had to prepare the team, myself and Heggie (Paul Hegarty).
“I’ll be honest with you, I’ve never been more delighted for a game to be off in my life!
“I got the phone call at quarter past six just before I named the team, which was great.
“The kit man at the time phoned me and said: ‘There is a God, Stevie. Your prayers have been answered and the game’s been called off’.
“Everybody’s different, though. I was quite happy being on the youth side of things and I think my record’s proven I was better at that!
“Being a No 3 and an assistant manager at Brechin was great but my passion has always been developing young talent.
“It’s slightly different now and has changed. I think a lot of people do go into the game in the youth side of things and see it as their apprenticeship to move up into the first team.
“Not everybody is for that but I do think Dundee United will do that, if not this time then the next.”
Changed days down Tannadice way
United have invested heavily in their youth set-up in the past few years since the arrival of American owner Mark Ogren, ploughing six-figure sums into the project.
It’s a far cry from Campbell’s days at the helm of the Tangerines’ academy, ably assisted by the likes of Dave Bowman and Brian Grant.
For him, a growing focus on players and staff coming through from grassroots in all shapes and forms is a sign of progress very much welcome down Tannadice way.
“Like anything, you move with the times,” he added.
“I look at the people involved, and I know quite a few of them from my time at United, and I know how good they are.
“Also, what they’ve brought in, they’ve went down a different route in terms of it being the modern way.
“It’s not just ex-footballers, they’ve got a good blend of people like Bow and Granty who’ve been there and done it but others, too.
“Especially Bow, he’s been at Dundee United for about 30-odd years and he doesn’t look any older!
“I don’t know how he manages that. His diet was always better than mine that’s for sure!
“He’s somebody that’s a good ambassador for the club as well.
“They’ve brought in Andy Goldie, Stevie Grieve and people like that. I’ve lost count of what they’ve got now.
“Head of the football department, analysis, tactical, Jordan Moore talent ID.
“These are, obviously, great. He’s somebody that’s been there and done it, came through the system with myself and Bow and it’s absolutely brilliant he’s back after all that happened to him.
“I’ve always believed that recruitment is absolutely massive.
“That gives you the raw materials – people like Johnny Russell and Scotty Allan.
“As coaches we’re not magicians, you need the tools to work with and these guys are bringing them in.
“There’s a new wave of people who are now academy graduates and United’s system now has a good blend of ex-players with that kind of knowledge and people leaning more towards the learning and teaching side.
“That’s a great thing for the future but I’m sure it does cost a lot more money than what we did!
“Results will tell in the coming years.”