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Five substitutions could boost prospects of emerging talent, says Inverness Caley Thistle head of youth development Charlie Christie

By Alasdair Fraser

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CHARLIE Christie believes Scottish football’s proposed switch to a five substitutes rule could boost the prospects of emerging young talent across the country.

Charlie Christie would be in favour of five substitutions a match.
Charlie Christie would be in favour of five substitutions a match.

Scottish Premiership teams are expected to agree to increase the number of usable replacements from three to five before the season kicks off on Saturday.

Championship, League One and Two clubs will be offered a similar vote before those leagues begin in October. The move, also deployed in England over the summer, is designed to ease the strain on squads denied full pre-season preparations and facing a more compressed fixture list.

Christie, currently furloughed as Caley Thistle’s head of youth development, was speaking as an ex-manager intrigued by how the change could affect the dynamic of matches.

While he has some concern as to how the increase, if not deployed with care, might hinder the flow of games, Christie sees great benefits for youngsters on the cusp of a first team breakthrough.

“I’ve been watching the English games and the constant stoppages, with water breaks as well, can be a bit of a bug-bear,” the 54-year-old stressed. “But I’d be quite for it, so long as they stipulate the maximum of three windows for the five substitutes.

“Otherwise, we all know what would happen – teams will use the five subs to kill time towards the end of games when winning.

“The element that appeals to me is how it might encourage the introduction of youth players at a greater frequency than before.

“A lot of teams have tended to have, among their seven substitutes, two or three young lads who don’t always get much of a chance on the park. With five substitutes, managers might well feel they have more freedom to use those players later in matches, particularly where their team is coasting to victory.

“The experience these lads could draw from it would be invaluable.”

From an extremely tight budget, Caley Thistle are expected to add to their squad by October. But currently a 16-strong squad features three 19 year-olds – Roddy MacGregor, Daniel MacKay and Cameron Harper. Between them, they count 62 appearances, the vast majority from the bench.

“When I first looked at the change from a youth perspective, I immediately thought it could be hugely beneficial,” Christie said.

“I always quote Barcelona as, over the years, I’ve watched them so much. When they’re coasting home in games, almost without fail, two kids will come off the bench.

“It’s a great philosophy to have and I hope Scottish teams do that too. It doesn’t reap immediate rewards, but six to nine months on you see the benefits. It can stand these lads in such good stead for the future.”

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