Aberdeen should be ‘incredibly proud’ of having a youth academy graduate in every starting line-up for 74 years, insists boss Stephen Glass.
In starting the 2-1 defeat of Hearts, Dean Campbell, 20, extended the unbroken run of games a youth academy graduate has started to an astonishing 3,481 matches.
That remarkable run dates back to September 6, 1947 and underlines the longevity and success of a youth system which has produced club legends like Neale Cooper, Neil Simpson, John Hewitt, Martin Buchan, Eoin Jess, Russell Anderson and Andy Considine – to name a few.
Aberdeen’s youth system continues to produce talent with the emergence this season of exciting full-backs Calvin Ramsay and Jack MacKenzie.
Such is Ramsay’s rising reputation, the 18-year-old is being tracked by Premier League clubs Manchester United, Everton, West Ham, Leicester City and Southampton.
Aberdeen are closing on a record set by Manchester United of featuring Academy players in their starting X1 for 3,527 consecutive games.
That run by the Old Trafford club began in October 1937 and ended in May 2011, spanning 74 years.
Aberdeen are just 46 games short of matching the English giants’ run.
Boss Glass insists Aberdeen’s proud record of fielding youth team graduates for more than seven decades has absolutely no influence on his team selection.
He will have no hesitation in breaking that 74-year run if needed.
However, with players like Ramsay, MacKenzie, Campbell, Connor McLennan and veteran Considine, he sees little chance of it ending soon.
Glass said: “It is something for the club to be incredibly proud of.
“But it won’t be something that you pick your team based on.
“I would imagine there’s going to be a manager at some point where it happens, that you don’t pick one in your starting line-up.
“If it happens to be us, I don’t think I could be accused of not wanting to play younger players.
“Talking about younger players … Andy Considine has almost solved that problem on his own for the last 20 years, for every manager who has been here for the 600-odd games he’s played.”
Scotland international Considine emerged from the club’s youth set-up to become one of Aberdeen’s longest-serving players.
Now into his 20th season in the first team squad, Considine is in the top five all-time appearance list for the Dons.
If that run breaks at some point, I don’t think it could be levelled at me that I don’t want to play young players.”
Aberdeen manager Stephen Glass
Considine, 34, is currently out until the new year following cruciate ligament surgery in August.
Scotland U21 cap Ramsay and MacKenzie, 21, are both out injured until after the upcoming international break.
On youth academy graduates, Glass said: “We’ve got two sitting on the treatment table (Ramsay, MacKenzie), we’ve got Dean Campbell who has an option to play, Connor McLennan who would be around us if he wasn’t injured.
“If that run breaks at some point, I don’t think it could be levelled at me that I don’t want to play young players.
“But I know it would be levelled at me if it does happen.”
Unbroken since St Mirren cup tie in 1947
In consistently fielding teenager Ramsay in his starting line-up, Glass has proven if you are good enough, you are old enough.
The unbroken run of a Dons youth graduate named in every competitive starting XI dates back more than seven decades.
In starting against Rangers and Hearts in the recent upsurge in form, Campbell kept that run going.
Campbell was reintroduced into the starting line-up for the first time since August due to a defensive injury crisis – and because he deserved a start.
The Scotland U21 international delivered impressive performances in both games with Glass admitting he now has a selection headache.
Campbell is in contention to start against Motherwell on Saturday – and keep that run going.
Glass said: “I’m not putting in players who don’t deserve to play.
“We went to Ibrox and Dean deserved to play.
“I’ll continue to pick teams who can fight to win a game.”
McKenna a youth academy success
Manchester United’s record ended more than a decade ago under the management of Gothenburg Great and Aberdeen legend Sir Alex Ferguson.
However, there has been at least one home grown player in every United matchday squad for the last 84 years – which began in October 1937.
The commitment to youth at Aberdeen has paid off recently with Scotland international centre-back Scott McKenna making 116 starts with two appearances off the bench before moving to Nottingham Forest last September.
McKenna was sold to the Championship outfit for an Aberdeen club record fee of £3m which can rise to £5m with achievable add-ons.
Glass said: “I think Manchester United were on a similar run until a few years back, when it did change there.
“Now they have a graduate in every match day squad.
“I certainly don’t see that changing for us, if we didn’t happen to start one on a given week.
“And a better manager than me stopped it at United, as well!’