Dundee boss James McPake “can’t talk up enough” how vital academy coaches are to the future of the Dens Park club.
Times have been tough for the Dark Blues over the shutdown brought on by the coronavirus pandemic with cuts made at first-team and youth level.
However, a large chunk of the club’s academy staff went above and beyond the call of duty during redundancy talks as they offered their services for free to help keep the youth setup going.
And they were all back to work at the Regional Performance Centre last week as the club’s young stars got back out on the training fields with the academy returning after the lengthy hiatus.
A former youth coach at the club himself, McPake knows just how big a sacrifice that was for the 12 coaches now volunteering under head of youth Stephen Wright and technical director Gordon Strachan.
“That’s huge, I can’t talk it up enough,” he said.
“There were loads of them there for the first night of academy training.
“Stephen and Gordon have done a great job and you can see that in the players who have made their debuts for the club, that’s all coming through the academy.
“It is massive for our football club and massive for our beliefs as well, getting our own players through and into the first team.
“The fans believe in that, too.”
With pre-season having started and the new campaign on the horizon for Dundee – the first match is on October 6 against Forfar in the Betfred Cup – everyone at the club is looking forward to putting a very difficult summer behind them.
Budgets have had to be slashed across the business and jobs have been lost but the flipside to the financial strain has been the reaction of, not just coaches working for free and first-team players and staff taking wage cuts, but the fundraising efforts of the fans.
The new 1893 Foundation has been set up with fans is now putting £8,300 straight into the club’s coffers every month while a scheme to place a ‘Thank You NHS’ badge on the sleeve of next season’s shirt raised more than £16,000.
On top of that supporters running 1893 miles between them brought in more than £3,000 and the Dundee FC Supporter’s Society purchased £3,230 of shares in the club.
That reaction from the Dens faithful has been heartening sight for McPake as he gears up for the new season.
“It’s been tough for everybody,” he added.
“Unfortunately, people have lost their jobs. But the pleasing side of that is seeing how everybody has come together and particularly the fans.
“They’ve been great and we’ve seen just how much this club means to them.
“Then there are the staff and the players as well who have helped maintain the club’s future and that’s massive credit to them.
“Every business in the world is suffering and has felt the impact of the pandemic.
“It’s good to see everybody came together to help the football club.”