BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
GUS MacPHERSON has weighed into the ‘colts’ debate, insisting that allowing Premiership youth sides to join the SPFL is not the way to bring through Scottish talent.
Top-flight development squads have participated in the IRN-BRU Cup for the first time this season and league chief executive Neil Doncaster has already hailed the scheme as a success, despite only Celtic’s kids reaching the third-round stage.
That has put talk of ‘colt’ clubs joining the league structure firmly on the agenda.
Instead, he firmly believes a return of a reserve division, allied with loaning out top youngsters to lower league clubs, is the best way to develop talent.
MacPherson said: “I don’t think [allowing ‘colt’ clubs to join] would improve the leagues. The leagues are already competitive enough and I think there are only one or two side who have that volume of players.
“Because of the size of squads that certain Scottish clubs have – without naming them – they can afford to do this. Other clubs can’t. The squads are becoming smaller and smaller through financial restrictions.
“It’s only in recent years that clubs have started to put these kids out regularly on loan. That was fantastic for us last year. We got Anthony Ralston, who was only 16, for Celtic.
“He came in and, I would suggest, during that four or five months he enhanced his development, playing with older buys, playing competitive football.
“Now, would it help putting a whole group into that? I don’t think it would. We’ve just seen that in the IRN-BRU Cup – Celtic were the only team to get their under-20s into the second round.
“It’s very difficult to expect a group of young players to be able to compete against certain professionals. Just from a physical aspect, as much as game knowledge.”
MacPherson saw that gulf first-hand when his side battered Kilmarnock’s under-20s side 5-2 in the IRN-BRU Cup.
Speaking after watching his side paired with Dunfermline in the fourth round of the competition, he added: “The level the competition is at, it’s far too much to expect groups of younger players to come in do well as a team. Some of the Kilmarnock kids were 18.
“It’s ridiculous to expect a group of 18-year-olds to go and play and compete against seasoned professionals, as they were expected to. They need a hand.
“I’m very much an advocate of reserve football. Play whatever age of players you want at your club.
“Reserve team football would be just another name. If you want to use a lot of young players, you can get older guys in to give them a hand – actually coach them during the game. That’s what it needs.”