To some it may seem like Flynn Duffy came from out of nowhere to make his Dundee United debut.
In a way, some good luck, with regular left-back Jamie Robson suspended and back-up Adrian Sporle injured, meant Duffy did appear from relative obscurity into the first-team picture.
However, in truth, the 17-year-old’s Terrors bow in last Friday’s 1-0 Premier Sports Cup Group B win at Kelty Hearts was years in the making.
For a while, the Dundonian kid may have felt like it might never happen.
But hard work and perseverance in the face of adversity landed him his chance in Tam Courts’ top team – and his display at Kelty means he is likely to keep his place for tomorrow night’s visit of Elgin to Tannadice.
After initially appearing a peripheral figure in pre-season, it’s been quite the turnaround for the young defender.
Lifting the lid on his set backs, Duffy believes he had to be mentally strong to keep his United career alive.
‘You need to handle your emotions and be mentally strong’
“I’ve been here since I was nine years old, came through the ranks at the academy,” he said.
“I’ve never really been the star player but I always seem to break through all the age groups.
“I think I’ve been quite consistent through the years and, hopefully, I can carry that on in my career.
“I’ve had some set backs along the way but I think you need them to appreciate the good times.
“Football’s never just going to be everything going up the way.
“It’s going to be up and down so you need to handle your emotions and be mentally strong – which I think I am.”
He continued: “I came in for pre-season and was one of the only ones training with the U/18s.
“That was just a couple of weeks back but then one morning I was told to come in and play with the first team in a bounce match.
“I did really well and ever since then I’ve been in training with them.
“I’ve played against Cowdenbeath and Brechin and performed so, thankfully, I got a chance against Kelty Hearts and I’m grateful to the manager for the faith.
“Hopefully I’ve repaid him.”
Duffy kept his cool thanks to old heads
Not only were his 68 minutes at New Central Park a source of pride for Duffy, his family were over the moon, too.
Duffy feels he handled the step up well but praised the senior players around him for helping to guide him through the match.
“I was delighted to make my debut,” he added.
“I tried to just focus on the game, my family had more emotions than me.
“It was a great occasion, great to have the fans back and is, hopefully, a good start we can build on.
“There’s a few United fans in my family and ever since I’ve been full-time here I’ve supported Dundee United.
“They were all proud to see me play.”
Duffy continued: “It’s a lot quicker, you need to be really focused all the time because they do the basics and the fundamentals so well.
“It’s just about being fully focused because one split second can change a game.
“There’s so many experienced players and they’re all helping me and the young ones out.
“I don’t think I would’ve done as well against Kelty Hearts if the likes of Mark Reynolds, Charlie Mulgrew and Calum Butcher weren’t beside me helping me through the game.”
Futsal improved United kid
Although nothing in comparison to the level he experienced against Kelty, Duffy says his time spent playing in the Dundee Futsal League has improved him as a player.
He starred for current champions Dundee Celtic in the competition and credits a lot of his technical ability to his time spent with the ball on the deck at DISC.
“Every Thursday I used to play futsal and it improved me,” he explained.
“It’s definitely benefitted my game.
“It’s very challenging, technically and it’s definitely helped me doing that.
“You’re also playing against good players. It’s not easy.”
‘A club like Dundee United looks to win every game’
Looking ahead to the clash with Elgin, with Robson and Sporle still out, Duffy says he’ll be ready if called upon as United look to pick up more group points.
He commented: “A club like Dundee United looks to win every game so we’ll be looking for maximum points from every game.
“It’s a cup competition we want to do well in.
“We got to the semi-finals of the Scottish Cup last year so we’re aiming high again.
“If I get the nod I’ll be more than ready to play and give my all again.
“I want to become a real squad member of the Dundee United first team.
“I try not to think about my age and just go into training every day, give it my all and see where that takes me.”