As he’s looked to strengthen his squad to give Dundee United the best possible chance of promotion at the end of this season, much of the focus on Robbie Neilson recently has been on who he’ll be signing in the January transfer window.
Since his arrival in October, however, the Tangerines boss has repeatedly stressed the need to make room for young players already at the club to make the breakthrough into first-team football.
Over the past few weeks he’s shown that’s more than just talk by including young attacker Matty Smith in his starting line-up on a couple of occasions, including for last weekend’s Tannadice draw with Partick Thistle.
The 21-year-old, who’s been hovering on the fringes of the first team for a couple of seasons now, is both grateful for that opportunity and determined to make the most of it.
“The manager said to us when he first came into the club that he would give the older lads their chance but he said us younger ones would get theirs as well,” said Smith.
“For me it’s good he’s done that. He brought me into the team against Inverness last month and again against Thistle on Saturday.
“After Inverness I had a wee while out because of illness but he’s brought me back in again and I enjoyed it.”
Despite his tender years, for the Dundonian having to impress a new manager at United is not something new.
Such has been the turmoil there since he was first signed up that he’s had more gaffers than many players come across during the course of their entire careers.
“I think it is about seven managers I’ve had here now and I’m only 21, so there have been a few. It is tough because I’ve never had a manager who has brought me into the team and given me a run of games. I’m glad the manager has given me my chance now and it’s up to me to take it.
“He had been great with me, he speaks to me in training and it’s been good for me.
“There a few of us young boys, some even younger than myself, that can get a chance.
“The manager will also bring a few more new players in as well during this window because it’s not really his squad yet and we’ll see what develops.
“He’s played me out wide. I’d like to play in the holding role in the middle because I’ve played there as well but, even though the manager has started me on the wing, he wants us to come into the middle and get on the ball there.”
Smith has performed well under his new boss at a time when United have been struggling to maintain the momentum they were building shortly after his arrival.
The youngster admits that’s been frustrating but believes United are not far away from returning to winning ways on a regular basis.
“Saturday was very frustrating. After Ayr and Ross County dropping points we were looking to get a victory but it wasn’t to be.
“Partick came at us first half to be fair to them. I thought in the second half we were very good and we can, hopefully, take that into this week against Dunfermline.
“There are no bad teams in this league and, at times, you just need to battle it out in games.
“We did that in the first half and I think in the second half we showed up better.
“We got the goal back in that second half and then had a lot of chances to win the game, we should have been more clinical and finished them off.
“We need to keep grinding results out. That’s us a point closer to Ross County now and we need to keep winning games.”