Former Dundee youth coach Stevie Campbell doesn’t want to see his old club throw away all their “brilliant” academy work as the financial implications of the coronavirus shutdown hit home.
With no income since football was brought to a halt in March and no games on the horizon until the autumn, Dens Park chiefs are looking to make savings after managing director John Nelms announced the club had lost £500,000.
Players and staff have been asked to take pay cuts and it emerged this week the youth academy is in the firing line for savings.
Campbell, who made over 100 appearances for the Dark Blues as a player before becoming a youth coach at Dens, then leading the successful academy at Dundee United until 2015, says cutting back on the youth set-up will have a long-term effect on the club.
He told Tele Sport: “It is worrying times, I must admit. It’s disappointing to hear they might be thinking of cuts because I have a lot of friends in the academy. I work with some kids who are in the academy and their families have been asking me what’s happening with it but I don’t know.
“I think back to my time at the club with Jinky (Ray Farningham) and Kenny Cameron where we had a great youth setup maybe 20 years ago now.
“Under Stephen Wright (Dundee’s head of academy) recently you could see that coming back with the improvements he’s made and guys like Barry Smith back there, Robbie Raeside and Scott Robertson all coaching.
“And to have Gordon Strachan there, too, one of my heroes when I was growing up, is fantastic. I’ve had the privilege of meeting Gordon a couple of times through the academy and that’s been great.
“There really are a lot of good young players there and who better to learn from than Gordon Strachan?
“I wouldn’t want to see all that brilliant work lost or stall. I guess there will be big decisions in the next few weeks and we’ll have to wait and see but it is a big concern for me.”
He added: “It’ll be so disappointing if they have to cut back again. It wouldn’t be the first time, obviously, and it does have an effect on the club. I think there’s been an effect felt for 15 years since the academy was last cut right back.
“Having worked with some of the kids, I know there is a lot of exciting talent there and I wouldn’t want to see them miss out on developing further, that’s the biggest disappointment.
“And look, it’s nobody’s fault, you can’t point the finger at anybody because nobody saw this coming.
“Hopefully something will happen to help out. I’m always hopeful.”
Now assistant manager at Brechin City while working with his Stevie Campbell Football Academy, the 52-year-old says financial cutbacks could prove an opportunity for some young players at first-team level.
“I go back to the time when Dundee got relegated and I left in 2005 – Paul Dixon, Scott Robertson, Kevin McDonald all benefitted from the club being in a bad financial situation,” he said.
“The club couldn’t bring in players so they had to blood youngsters and look where that got them – all Scotland internationals and had great careers.
“That’s maybe a silver lining for some of the boys who are in that area between youth football and the first team.
“I’ve worked with Lyall Cameron and he’s in that bracket at Dundee, a really talented player with a good attitude, and it might just be a platform for guys like him to shine.
“But we’ll also take players like that at Brechin! There’s no better place to learn your trade than out on loan and we’ll be quite happy to help in that regard.
“We are looking forward to getting back in October and Mark (Wilson) and I will have half a squad to put together.”
The coronavirus lockdown has seen all football put on hold but recent easing of restrictions has allowed Campbell to put on Zoom sessions for the kids in his own academy.
“The last month has made me happier than anything just to see the kids with smiles on their faces after our sessions because normal life has completely stopped for them,” he added.
“It’s been such a difficult situation for everybody but, thankfully, Scotland seems to have coped well with everything and fingers crossed it stays that way.
“It’s a case of tip-toeing through and staying within the guidelines because we don’t want a second wave, I don’t think the kids could handle that too well if things were taken away again.
“Doing a session on Zoom is one thing but there’s nothing like being out on the pitch again.
“Hopefully, when the schools are back we can be back with the coaching proper, I know the kids will be missing their football.”