Dundee United legend Dave Bowman has credited boss Robbie Neilson for giving young players the chance to shine in tangerine.
Bowman, player transition coach at United, deals with the progression of academy talent into, hopefully, Terrors first-team stars.
And, speaking in the wake of the club’s one-year anniversary of their restructuring of youth operations, which saw them become an Elite club in the Scottish FA’s Project Brave scheme, the 55-year-old has hailed Robbie for working closely with he and head of player pathway and loans Brian Grant.
“You can have the best academy in the world but the bit you need is a manager who’s willing to play them,” Bow said.
“If you haven’t got that, it doesn’t really matter.
“Robbie believes they’re good enough and we’re lucky he’s wanting to give young boys a chance.
“You need people who are going to believe in the players and throw them in and play them.
“Granty and I talk all the time to decide what we need to do.
“Sometimes I’ll tell him we need to get players out on loan because some get to U/18 level and it becomes a comfort zone for them.
“They need to be tested all the time rather than getting too comfortable in their environment here.
“We want them to play because, as much as you want to win the youths and reserves because there’s a table, when it comes to playing, even in the juniors, you actually need to win.
“There’ll be experienced players there telling them what it’s all about, they need to win these games.”
To listen to the Tele’s football podcast – Twa Teams One Street – download from Apple Podcasts or Spotify, or head to thetele.co.uk
One player who has benefited greatly from the Tangerines’ youth programme is attacker Louis Appere.
The 20-year-old spent last season on loan at Broughty Athletic juniors and is now reaping the rewards as a first-team star.
“He’s done it the hard way as well,” former United midfielder Bow added of Appere.
“When you ask players to go out on loan, you’ll sometimes see boys turn their nose up at clubs.
“Particularly the juniors, Louis wasn’t even going out to a league team or even a Lowland League side.
“He was going into a junior environment. I went to see him quite a few times last season and he did well.
“I was thinking ‘can he make the step up?’ and Robbie gave him the chance.
“It’s brilliant, the manager gave him a go – he’s kicked on and the rest is history.”
Another such youngster who has kicked on at Tannadice this season is Declan Glass.
The 19-year-old midfielder spent the first part of the season on loan at Cove Rangers and Bowman has been impressed with what he’s seen since he returned in January.
“I saw Declan at Airdrie last year and he had a loan experience that wasn’t great because he went there and never really played that much.
“Despite that, I always said to him it would be beneficial because he knows how good he is, we know how good he is but he still wasn’t getting a game. That’s part and parcel of football, you can’t live on the ups all the time, you’ve got to learn how to react to the downs.
“Deco came in again this season, wasn’t really in the picture at the start of the term so decided to go out on loan.
“He went to Cove and I saw him plenty up there and he was brilliant, did really well.”
Kieran Freeman has returned to the club from Southampton after a knee injury hampered his progress down south.
Now, Bowman is hoping the young defender will be the next prospect to make an impact on Robbie’s first-team.
“We knew Kieran from before and Granty and I sold it to Robbie,” the 1994 Scottish Cup winner explained.
“He’s a good player and, that’s another thing that can happen with young players, he goes down south and gets a knee injury.
“He had another bad cruciate injury straight after but he’s come back up here and, hopefully, we’re giving him the platform to prove he can go and play for Dundee United.”