Much has been made of the quality of Dundee United’s latest crop of young talent with little in the way of tangible evidence on show in the first team.
However, if you were seeking a sliding doors moment, you need look no further than Wednesday night’s 2-2 draw with Motherwell.
It was United’s second of the evening, a goal created in the academy and delivered
off the production line in a Premiership match, that signalled the potential for a changing of the guard.
Picking up the ball on the right flank, the exciting Logan Chalmers jinked and turned his man inside out before laying the ball off for cool kid Archie Meekison to stroke a curling effort in off the post.
Made at Tannadice. ™️
— Dundee United FC (@dundeeunitedfc) May 12, 2021
As the 19-year-old ran off to enthusiastically-celebrate scoring on his full United debut, a roar went up from the coaches and directors inside Tannadice, one you feel was as much relief as it was joy.
Meekison, who has spent time on loan at Cove Rangers and Spartans down the years, represents the first Terrors academy product to have made their debut this season and have made a real, substantial impact.
It was a milestone that was needed.
For all we’ve season quality from Jamie Robson (23), Louis Appere (22) and Chalmers (21) in seasons gone by, Meekison’s moment of magic is something new for Andy Goldie’s academy to point to.
The midfielder’s strike is an indicator of progress.
Of course, he is not the only one in the Tangerines’ ranks making a splash.
There’s defenders Lewis Neilson and Kerr Smith, both of whom have racked up game time at the back this season, Flo Hoti, Chris Mochrie and Declan Glass in midfield while, up top, Kai Fotheringham looks a prospect.
That link-up between Chalmers and Meekison, however, hits different. It shows United’s academy project has the potential to really work.
Goldie, sporting director Tony Asghar and boss Micky Mellon push the message of United’s desire to develop homegrown talent at every available opportunity – and they’re starting to back it up.
In the 3-0 defeat at Kilmarnock last month, Mellon threw kids in, much to the dismay of some in the United support, but it’s a decision that’s now vindicated with their performance against the Steelmen.
Smith, who struggled against Kyle Lafferty, was better against Christopher Long and Devante Cole.
Meekison, who came off the bench at Rugby Park, turned showing flashes of what he’s about in Ayrshire into a complete performance.
Chalmers delivered a Man of the Match display in his first start since an ankle injury in Ocotber, while Appere looked increasingly-comfortable at this level.
That they will get another chance against St Mirren tomorrow to close the season, I am convinced.
As for next season? The clues as to which way United will go are clear.
Am I getting ahead of myself in thinking about who Dundee would like to face in the Premiership play-off final?
If we were talking about the Dark Blues of last season, or even the incarnation we saw before the turn of the year, certainly I am.
However, this Dee side are different. They have all the tools necessary to control their own destiny.
Sitting 3-0 up over Raith Rovers headed into tonight’s semi-final second leg at Dens Park, a confident and high class Dundee should have no concerns about progressing past the Kirkcaldy men.
John McGlynn’s team will fight tooth and nail, of course, but the Dee, deep-rooted and full of wisdom, won’t budge.
I believe that, I really do.
What James McPake has done with his side in the last dozen games or so has been remarkable.
The self-belief is radiating off them right now – and that is a frightening prospect for any opponent.
Raith just didn’t have the answers at Stark’s Park on Wednesday night and I can’t see that changing in a matter of three days.
Whoever lies in wait in the shoot-out for a place in next season’s top flight, whether Kilmarnock or Ross County, won’t fancy Dundee either.
Although, instead of, like me, thinking about who they may face, the Dee must keep doing what they’re doing.
It’s got them this far – and there’s no reason why it can’t take them all the way.
The decision to move the Uefa Champions League Final to accommodate more fans is the way our game should’ve gone with its own showpiece events.
The clash between Chelsea and Man City for Europe’s biggest prize will now be played in Porto instead of Istanbul in a fortnight’s time to allow 12,000 supporters to attend.
With Covid-19 restrictions easing, I had hoped Scottish football would follow suit and the government would give the green light for fans to be at the Scottish Cup and Premiership play-off finals.
Alas, for the cup, it’ll be echoes once more.