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LEE WILKIE: Kerr Smith deal a good one for player and Dundee United but lays bare Scottish football failings

Lee Wilkie and former Dundee United player Kerr Smith.
Lee Wilkie and former Dundee United player Kerr Smith.

I’ve no doubt Kerr Smith will go on to shine at Aston Villa.

It is a huge move for the kid but he’s got the temperament – and the ability – to take that in his stride.

It will be a difficult year for him.

Becoming a pro footballer in itself is incredibly tough for anybody.

But now he has a big move to contend with – leaving home and all his friends to head down to Birmingham.

That’ll be difficult but if he concentrates 100% on his football and gets that right, the rest
will fall into place for him.

Kerr Smith in action for Dundee United at Hearts.

For Dundee United, it’s a great bit of business as well.

They have invested a lot in their academy to produce players for their first team.

The plan is also to sell them on which they have done with Kerr.

It’s yet another indication of the massive difference in finances between England and
Scotland, though.

It could be a big deal for the Tangerines.

For Villa, it’s a tiny part of their overall budget.


Saying that, though, I don’t think we do ourselves any favours up here.

To me, the Scottish football system fails kids like Kerr, where they are too good or
too old for U/18 football but not quite good enough to hold down a regular first-team place.

There is a big gap between U/18s and first-team yet I don’t see us doing anything about it.

Chris Mochrie gets instruction from head coach Tam Courts.

Yes, there are U/20s teams but those matches are few and far between right now.

Clubs, the SFA and everyone involved have limitations in terms of funding and all that, I

But I can’t help but feel we are shooting ourselves in the foot.

This is exactly why Rangers and Celtic have fought to get Colt teams into the Lowland
League, to get their players experience of playing football at a good level.

Because there is a void between the 18s and the top team.

Real problem

So, for Kerr, there isn’t really a decision to be made is there?

Do you stay at your club where U/18 football doesn’t test you but you’re not really getting a look in at first-team level?

Or go down south to join an U/23 team where you will get tested and there’s a chance at a Premier League club?

This isn’t a go at Dundee United, by the way, just to be clear.

But, if you ask the likes of Chris Mochrie or Lewis Neilson if they feel they are really being pushed I suspect they’d say no.

It is a crucial part in a player’s development.

The loan system is there but it is hit and miss. Sometimes players don’t play.

Having such small leagues means there is pressure on every single club and would
they be willing to throw in an untested youngster with promotion or relegation on the line or go with tried and tested?

It is a real problem for our game.

There are some seriously talented boys in this country but if they don’t get to play, what’s the point?

Kerr Smith has a wonderful opportunity and I’ve no doubt he will take it.

I can’t help but feel we’re not giving others enough help to realise their own potential, though.

Pressure on United tonight

United face St Mirren tonight.

It’s great to be back talking about matches again and there aren’t many bigger this season for Dundee United than tonight’s clash.

It might not look like a glamour tie against St Mirren.

But the Tangerines just have to stop their slide down the table.

And, United should be looking to win home games against teams below them in the table.

Lose out and the teams behind are nipping at their heels, it’s a huge match.

Ending their poor run before the break is a must at Tannadice.

Pressure will begin to build if they don’t.

Massive game.


Kerr Smith won’t be Dundee United’s last ‘top dollar’ kid bound for Premier League, vows Tam Courts

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