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CALUM WOODGER: Different experiences can benefit Dundee United’s Bairns and the Dark Blues must be wary of ‘The Smokie Joes’

Talented Dundee United kid Lewis Neilson has joined Falkirk on loan for the remainder of the season.
Talented Dundee United kid Lewis Neilson has joined Falkirk on loan for the remainder of the season.

Much has been made of the talented crop of youngsters coming through at Dundee United right now – and with good reason.

We’ve already seen what many of them can do at first team level for the Terrors this season.

Heading out on loan to the lower leagues will be a different experience from pulling on a tangerine jersey in the Premiership but one which will undoubtedly benefit them in the long run.

At Montrose, Chris Mochrie is at one of the best – and best-run – part-time clubs in the country and is already familiar with his surroundings.

The 17-year-old midfielder made a big impression at Links Park in the first half of the season, before the suspension of Leagues One and Two saw him return to Tannadice.

He’s back in Angus now and looking to kick on under boss Stewart Petrie and the watchful eye of Tangerines favourite Sean Dillon, a player-coach with the Gable Endies.

Fighting for the promotion play-offs at the top end of the third tier and being in an
environment with seasoned pros like Paul Watson and Iain Campbell will continue to take Mochrie further away from the safety of academy football and into a sphere where every match and point matters.

Similarly, right-back Kieran Freeman (20) and centre-half Ross Graham (20) are back with League One clubs Peterhead and Cove Rangers respectively, facing similar battles and conditions.

Dundee United attacker Kai Fotheringham in Betfred Cup action against Peterhead earlier in the campaign.

Both have gained valuable top-team minutes in the north east in the first part of the campaign and will be hoping to continue to impress.

Most interesting of the moves United have made in farming out their fledglings is sending 17-year-olds Kai Fotheringham and Lewis Neilson to Falkirk.

Of those currently playing away from Tannadice, they are the two who have featured most in recent times for Micky Mellon’s first team, Neilson in particular.

The Terrors gaffer obviously feels with the season all but over for his side as they face up to bottom-six football with no realistic threat of relegation, their two most exciting prospects would benefit more from heading out to title-chasing Falkirk.

The Bairns are in pole position for a return to the Championship and will feel the heat from the likes of Graham’s Cove and Mochrie’s Montrose when action returns later this month.

The big difference Fotheringham and Neilson will experience from their youth team counterparts is training in a full-time environment with co-managers and former United stars David McCracken and Lee Miller.

Dundee United boss Micky Mellon.

Exposure to that kind of environment at a big club with an expectant fanbase very much mimics that which exists at United. It will test them.

And the carrot dangling in front of all the Terrors’ loan kids is there to see in the first team right now. Jamie Robson, Louis Appere, Logan Chalmers, but who next?

Having Arbroath TV commentators Ewan Smith and Allen “Fermer” Innes on our Twa Teams, One Street podcast this week gave us a real deep dive into what the Red Lichties are all about.

Although I dubbed them “The Smokie Joes”, Dick Campbell’s side are no joke.

If Ewan and Fermer’s ramblings taught me anything it’s that Dundee must be wary of their Angus opponents when they come to Dens Park.

Arbroath are on a great run in 2021, the kind of form James McPake’s Dark Blues could only dream of at the moment, and demand respect.

Dundee boss James McPake.
Dundee boss James McPake.

Losing only once so far this calendar year, a 4-2 reverse at the hands of Queen of the South last weekend, the part-timers are no Championship whipping boys.

They’ll come to the City of Discovery with real belief they can get a result and the Dee need to be at the top of their game.

The Dark Blues have not reached those heights in recent times, dropping out of the promotion play-off spots, but with inspirational captain Charlie Adam back they have no excuse for not recapturing their best form now.

Arbroath boss Dick Campbell was named Championship Manager of the Month for February.

Arbroath at home should always be looked upon as an opportunity to pick up three points, ones that would be valuable with the way Dundee’s season is perched.

It won’t be that simple of course but, make no mistake, it’s a must-win for the Dee.

There aren’t many obvious reasons for us Scots to follow Portuguese football but I sure hope national team boss Steve Clarke is.

If he is, he’ll be seeing former Dundee United attacker Ryan Gauld absolutely tearing up the top flight for Farense at the moment and, hopefully, considering handing him a first cap.

Ryan Gauld in action for Scotland under-21s.

Getting Gauld on a plane from the Mediterranean then onto the bus to our Euro 2020 group matches at Hampden and Wembley this summer is a no-brainer, for me.

The 25-year-old is a match-winner and you can’t have enough of those in tournament football.

This article originally appeared on the Evening Telegraph website. For more information, read about our new combined website.