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How all 16 Dundee United academy graduates have fared since 2021/22 first-team action

MacLeod, Miller, Duffy and Moore in action. Image: SNS / DCT
MacLeod, Miller, Duffy and Moore in action. Image: SNS / DCT

New academy director Paul Cowie this week described youth development as being in Dundee United’s “DNA”.

That was repeatedly underlined last term as SIXTEEN homegrown talents featured for the first-team.

United set a new club record for their youngest-ever player twice in one season.

It is a source of pride within the walls of Tannadice, even mentioned in United’s annual accounts for the year ending June 2022.

And while there is a far more experienced hue to the senior selections this term, creating a conveyor belt of promising kids remains a pillar of the club’s business model.

It is a challenge Cowie is relishing. 

Courier Sport provides a progress report on all of those academy prospects, in order of when they made their first appearance of last season.

Flynn Duffy, 19

Marauding full-back Duffy made a fine impact during the 2021/22 Premier Sports Cup group phase, even teeing up Lawrence Shankland’s winner in a narrow 1-0 victory over Kelty Hearts.

He also featured in triumphs against Elgin City and East Fife, before being loaned out to Peterhead for the remainder of the campaign.

Duffy was a mainstay for the Blue Toon — making 29 appearances — and garnered praise from then-boss Jim McInally.

However, the teenager has been in something of a holding pattern this term, neither featuring for the United first-team nor being loaned out.

In the meantime, he has played for United’s reserves, showcasing an ability to play on the left side of a back three.

Kieran Freeman, 22

Freeman is one of the homegrown heroes who has remained firmly in the senior picture.

‘Sheep’ appears to have cemented his position as first-choice wing-back under head coach Liam Fox, and rippled the net in the Tangerines’ recent 4-0 demolition of Kilmarnock at Tannadice.

Another Tannadice kid who enjoyed a formative stint at Balmoor, Freeman has racked up a total of 43 United appearances.

Lewis Neilson, 19

Neilson departed Dundee United for Hearts during the summer — in what has proved an embarrassing affair for the Terrors.

A tribunal ruled that Hearts will not have to pay compensation for defender Lewis Neilson. Image: SNS.

United chiefs were adamant they were due a compensation fee for the strapping stopper, who played 19 games for the club and was on the books for a decade. However, an SPFL ruled in favour of the Jambos.

Neilson has featured 15 times for Hearts and was sent off in a Europa Conference League showdown against Fiorentina.

Chris Mochrie, 19

Having made his senior debut at the age of 16, Mochrie seems to have been in the United picture for an age — however, the youngster still has time on his side.

Technically gifted and highly-rated by Tannadice coaches, the languid playmaker is currently thriving on loan with League 1 leaders Dunfermline, notching two goals in 15 outings.

His last performance against Peterhead was a virtuoso one.

Courier Sport understands Pars boss James McPake is desperate to keep the player beyond January. He remains contracted to United until 2024.

Logan Chalmers, 22

Another man contracted to United until 2024, Chalmers has amassed 40 appearances for United.

However, he has struggled to cement a starting berth at Tannadice.

He has enjoyed varying levels of success during loan stints at Arbroath, Inverness and, currently, Ayr United.

Chalmers is part of a burgeoning promotion push with the Honest Men and notched his first goal for the club in a 4-2 win over Partick Thistle last month.

Kerr Smith, 17

Smith, the youngest United ace to ever play in a Dundee derby, is another academy product who made his debut at the age of 16.

Such was his promise, he was afforded a trial with Manchester United.

Smith, left, in action in a Dundee derby. Image: SNS.

While the Red Devils didn’t swoop, fellow English Premier League side Aston Villa did.

Smith joined the Villains in January 2022. The deal could ultimately be worth £2 million to the Tannadice club.

He is a regular for Villa’s under-23s and a Scotland under-19s mainstay.

Finn Robson, 19

Robson made his senior bow in United’s 6-1 demolition of Elgin last July, entering the fray as a 58th-minute substitute.

That remains the combative midfielder’s sole appearance, while he had spells on loan with Kelty Hearts and Spartans.

Robson has featured for United’s reserves this term.

Jamie Robson, 24

Robson made 174 appearances during his 10 years at Dundee United, finding the net three times.

One of those goals memorably came last season, with his fine strike against Rangers securing a 1-0 triumph and ending the 40-game Premiership unbeaten run of Steven Gerrard’s side.

Robson joined Lincoln City for an undisclosed fee on August 31 and has gone on to play 42 times for the League One outfit.

Archie Meekison, 20

Classy midfielder Meekison enjoyed a fine end to last season, featuring regularly as United claimed fourth place in the Premiership and secured European qualification for the first time in a decade.

Despite impressing whenever called upon, Meekison has only played seven times this season — and only started ONCE.

However, his talent has been recognised at Scotland under-21 level, with Meekison making his debut against Northern Ireland in September before earning a second cap against Iceland this month.

Darren Watson, 19

Watson was afforded eight outings for United in the first half of last season, including high-profile fixtures against Rangers (twice), Celtic, Hearts and Hibs.

And he never once looked overawed.

Darren Watson strikes the bar against the Gers. Image: SNS.

Indeed, Watson struck the bar in last December’s 1-0 defeat against the Gers at Ibrox, as a young Terrors side came agonisingly close to grabbing a point.

A subsequent loan spell at East Fife — playing under current United assistant boss Stevie Crawford — was interrupted by injury, and he hasn’t featured for the Tangerines this term.

Louis Appéré, 23

Appéré registered eight goals in 80 appearances for the Tangerines but, aside from a heartening run of form while United were in the Championship, struggled to nail down a starting berth.

He found the net once in 15 outings last season — a strike in a 1-1 draw against Ross County — before joining Northampton Town in January.

Appéré was a key man as the Cobblers reached the League Two promotion playoffs, albeit they ultimately failed to go up. He has notched three goals in 19 games this term.

Declan Glass, 22

Glass recently penned a new deal with United until the summer of 2024 and remains an undoubted talent, as illustrated by a wonder-goal against Hibs last December.

The mercurial midfielder spent the first half of this campaign on loan at Derry City, helping the Irish side lift the FAI Cup; his fourth medal after winning League Two with Cove Rangers and the Championship with United and Kilmarnock.

He will return to United training with the rest of the squad next week to compete for a first-team place — and will be eligible to represent the Terrors again once the registration window reopens in January.

Craig Moore, 17

Moore became the youngest player to start a senior match for United when he lined up against Rangers last December.

He turned in a nerveless showing at Ibrox before a slight knock forced him off.

That remains Moore’s only senior outing, but he has captained the Tangerines’ youth side.

He went to the Under-17 European Championships with Scotland during the summer.

Ross Graham, 21

It is remarkable to think that Ross Graham only made his United debut in January, recovering admirably from a miserable loan stint with Dunfermline.

Since that substitute appearance against Celtic, he has played a further 28 games for his boyhood heroes, scored against Rangers and made his Scotland under-21 debut against Kazakhstan — also finding the net in that game.

He endured a challenging start to the current campaign — in common with most at Tannadice — but came back into the side for recent outings against Kilmarnock and Aberdeen and impressed.

Rory MacLeod, 16

MacLeod took Moore’s crown as United’s youngest ever player when he entered the fray against Motherwell in February, aged just 16 years and six days.

He then started in attack against Celtic in May, rattling the post with a ferocious low drive and defending from the front, shackling Callum McGregor superbly.

Rory MacLeod, No.7, proudly sporting the armband for Scotland U17s. Image: Scottish FA.

MacLeod joined Moore at the Under-17s European Championship and, with three senior appearances to his name already, is a top talent.

Miller Thomson, 18

Thomson was a shock starter in United’s breathless victory over St Mirren in March, having featured as a substitute against Celtic five days prior.

Deployed on the right wing, he struggled to make an impact and was withdrawn at the interval.

Nevertheless, Thomson has earned a place in United’s match-day squad on several occasions this season.

He was a standout in a recent SPFL Reserve Cup tie against Dunfermline, along with Matthew Cudjoe