Caley Thistle manager John Robertson feels teenagers Daniel MacKay and Cameron Harper are showing the benefits of their time on loan with Elgin City last season.
Winger MacKay, 19, has started all five of Inverness’ matches so far this season, netting his first goal of the campaign in Saturday’s 3-1 Championship victory over Arbroath.
Left back Harper, who is a year younger, has also featured in every match albeit two of his outings have come from the bench.
MacKay spent last year on loan with Elgin, making 27 appearances for Gavin Price’s men, while Harper also made four appearances during a month-long stint at Borough Briggs after the turn of the year.
Robertson feels the loan moves have had the desired effect in preparing the pair for first team football.
Robertson said: “We can see already with the way Daniel protects the ball, the way his movement has improved, that he has been out there and to put it quite crudely, he’s been clattered by some challenges in League Two.
“That was the whole point of him going out there, to learn the game.
⚽ All the goals from yesterday’s 3-1 win against Arbroath pic.twitter.com/2SzLtmayl0
— Inverness Caledonian Thistle FC (@ICTFC) November 1, 2020
“Cameron went out for five matches and it showed him right away he needed to pick up his sharpness and intelligence of the runs of the forwards. He looks perfectly at home now.
“If you do it properly and nurture the players right, and get their attitude correct to going out on loan correct and battling for their place, that’s a big thing for us.
“We are not a club that insists our players have to play. We want them to earn the respect of the dressing room they go into.
“In Daniel and Cameron’s case they had to earn the respect of their team-mates at Elgin City, battle their way into the team in the first place, and then progress from there. Both of them did that very well.”
Midfielder Roddy MacGregor has also been thrust into the starting line-up after breaking into Inverness’ side last season.
Although MacGregor has not been farmed out on loan, Robertson is hopeful the 18-year-old can show he does not need to follow the same path as MacKay and Harper.
He added: “It may be at some stage if we get everybody back that the likes of Roddy MacGregor could get the same exposure to that.
“Hopefully not, because if he just adds goals and assists to his game, he can become a very important player for us.
“If he can do that there will be no stopping him because he has been fantastic in terms of energy, getting forward and causing problems.”
Robertson feels the young players in his squad must aim to make themselves at home among their more senior team-mates, with the Caley Jags boss adding: “It’s an opportunity that may have been delayed slightly had all our experienced lads been fit.
“People forget that Daniel Mackay has been around about the first team for three seasons.
“He was one of our youngest ever goalscorers when he scored in the Challenge Cup against Peterhead, and he’s now got over 30 appearances for the first team.
“Roddy MacGregor has over 30 appearances for the first team and Cameron Harper has just gone over a dozen appearances.
“Ryan Fyffe stepped up on loan last year at Fort William, and he has shown that he learned from going out and playing senior football. Lewis Hyde came on at Tynecastle and did very well as well, so these young lads are not scared.
“They will go in and do a job for us. It would be nice to have some more options, but those senior options won’t necessarily be the ones we pick if the current crop of youngsters continue with the form that they are in.
“If they can add goals and good performances to what they have already shown, they will stay in the team. That’s how football works.”