‘The kids are alright!’ says Ross County manager Malky Mackay
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MALKY Mackay has re-iterated his commitment to youth – and predicted some Ross County academy graduates can hit the big-time.
The Staggies’ manager will draw on experience as Scotland’s SFA performance director to hone the futures of talented kids with first team potential.
They include right-back Ben Williamson (18), midfielders Ryan MacLeman (17) and Adam MacKinnon (18), striker Matthew Wright (18) and goalkeeper Logan Ross (17). Carefully selected loan deals could be crucial to their development.
“We have youngsters who wouldn’t usually be in and around the first team squad quite yet, but all credit to them – they have been terrific,” Mackay said. “If handled correctly in the next couple of years, they will play for our first team.
“Having been involved in that with Scotland, talking to Premiership teams about young players’ pathways, I know a lot rests on how quickly they are exposed to men’s football.
“If their progression continues in line with potential, we have a great opportunity to get another three or four home-grown players in our first team. For me, they need to play both with and against men, experience the rigours and shock of that.
“When I was managing in England, Harry Kane had five loan moves before he ever pulled on a white jersey. At Watford, I had eight or nine young loanees who became internationals.
“There’s a balance to strike. Sometimes, if the player is really promising he sits on the first team bench and it can set him behind a lesser player who is sent out on loan. We will have a pathway and it is important that these lads and their families see that. We need to nurture our own young Highland players because fans embrace that and it is important we see the fruits of the chairman’s investment."
Defender Josh Reid raised the bar for County’s youth last season before his move to Coventry City.
Mackay also rates assistant manager Don Cowie as a “perfect” role model for young players, given his career heights.
“Lots have talent, but it is that thing inside you. That determination never to give up,” Mackay added. “These ones could become top footballers.
"I said to the younger players a couple of days ago that I wanted to see them go on from here and become stars in England. They’ve got to have those aspirations.”