A stint in junior football could be the ideal stepping-stone for many a budding professional footballer.
That’s the view of Broughty Athletic president Jim Finlayson, who, in recent years, has witnessed first Simon Murray, then Louis Appere benefit from their time in the lower grade.
Appere has been making big waves for Dundee United this season.
The 20-year-old, who spent the first five months of the year with Broughty, quickly broke into the Tangerines first-team at the start of the season and hasn’t looked out of place, scoring two goals in 19 appearances.
His performances have been so impressive, he was offered, and signed, a new contract which ties him to the Tannadice club until 2022.
Appere’s rapid rise up the pecking order in Robbie Neilson’s plans comes as no surprise to Finlayson, who watched his short spell at Whitton Park with interest.
He said: “Louis came in January and was fantastic.
“He had a wee settling-in period over the first four or five games but, once he started banging in goals, he couldn’t stop. I think he got around 22 in his short time here.
“His attitude was phenomenal. He was no big-time Charlie – a nicer guy you couldn’t meet.
“Everyone at the club loved big Louis. He would come over from Fife on the bus two nights a week for training. Nothing was a problem for him. He would pick up the cones or lend a hand with the kit.
“On a match day, any instructions our manager Jamie McCunnie gave him, he carried them out to a T.”
Finlayson reckons Appere’s future in the game may not stop at Tannadice.
“His attitude means football should hold no barriers for him. He’ll give everything he’s got.
“He used us as a platform. It was a chance to get playing men’s football. He said he would give it his best shot.
“It was a fantastic opportunity and he took it with both hands. He came to us as a boy and left the club as a man.”
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Although different types of players, Finlayson says there are similarities between Appere and Murray, a player he worked with at another local junior club, Violet.
Finlayson continued: “John McGlashan brought Simon to Violet.
“He was a great lad, a bit older, a bit mischievous and a bit more street-wise than Louis.
“But when that whistle went he was totally focused. In that respect he was very similar to Louis.
“When he came to the club we were struggling against relegation but his goals and performances lifted us up the table.
“He was working as a plumber at the time but his performances saw him move to Tayport, then quickly on to Arbroath and Dundee United.
“He’s since played for Hibs and Dundee and now he’s down in South Africa turning out for Bidvest Wits.
“He’s done very well for himself.”
Finlayson admits junior football isn’t for everyone but he reckons it can be either the path into senior football or a learning curve for young pros.
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He went on: “Players must have the right attitude to play junior football.
“There can sometimes be a wee bit of senior snobbery. Not every club will send players out to the juniors.
“But the likes of Peterhead boss Jim McInally is always in touch to see what’s going on and who the better players are.
“Playing in the juniors can sometimes tell you a lot more about a young lad than, say, turning out in games in the U/18 league for their senior teams.
“I’m convinced many would benefit more from a season in junior football.
“However, they must have the right mentality – Louis and Simon certainly had that.
“Junior football should not be discredited – it’s character- building.”