Tam Courts has urged history-making Kerr Smith to stick around at Dundee United long enough to become a fans’ favourite.
Smith became the youngest United player to ever feature in a Dundee derby on Sunday.
The highly-rated defender – who has recently been linked with a host of top English clubs and Celtic – started in the 1-0 win, aged 16 years, 9 months and 7 days.
But Smith is still at the early stages of making the breakthrough to becoming a first-team regular.
Hopes young players will stay
And Tannadice boss Courts is determined to hang onto his prized asset for as long as possible.
“I want young players to spend quite a bit of time here,” said Courts.
“Then fans can enjoy them for a longer period of time and be part of their journey.
“It also means the young players know they are still part of a big club.
“There’s no doubt from us what we are. We are in the business of developing young players in order to sell them.
“But we need to sell them to the right clubs, for the right value and at the right time.
“Sunday was a good step in the right direction for Kerr but we aren’t getting overly excited because we already knew his qualities.
“It’s about giving him the right opportunities to keep developing.”
‘Outstanding against Dundee’
Courts often forgets how young Smith is.
The powerful defender has the build and physique of a seasoned pro and the game maturity of an experienced veteran.
But he is still only 16 and Courts was blissfully unaware of Smith’s record-breaking exploits as he handed him a derby debut.
“I wasn’t aware of that,” added Courts. “At semi-regular intervals you need reminded of how young Kerr actually is.
“He’s not 17 until December and is a really young guy with an old head on his shoulders.
“He was outstanding against Dundee in what was a great team performance.
“With young players, as long as they feel I am confident in them then they take confidence from that.
“The first question we had to ask is whether or not he can play full-back in games against certain players.
“Getting a game at centre-back this season with Charlie Mulgrew and Ryan Edwards’ consistency is difficult.
‘Managers sometimes look too deeply’
“In order to give Kerr the game time he needs we had to satisfy ourselves that he can play full-back.
“I think he proved that on Sunday.
“It’s only when you speak to Kerr you realise how young he is.
“Young players don’t over-complicate or over-think things. Managers sometimes look too deeply into things.
“Young players like Kerr just take it for what it is – a game of football with a lot of people there watching.
“It’s testament to Kerr’s temperament he was able to go and perform so admirably.”