Aberdeen fans may need to keep an eye on Peterhead for the rest of the season, thanks to the form of Ryan Duncan.
From the shadow of niggling injuries, Duncan has emerged as a bright spark in an already-youthful Blue Toon side in recent weeks.
He initially joined on loan at the end of September but was sidelined by a groin problem, which threatened to curtail his impact at Balmoor. His deal was initially only until January and there were prolonged discussions over whether he would remain for the second half of the season.
Duncan came off the bench against East Fife to score his first senior goal and spoke then of his desire to remain until the end of the season. Manager Jim McInally echoed those sentiments and in the final days of 2021, both got their wish.
The 17-year-old started against Cove Rangers last weekend and was an impressive figure, spearheading much of Peterhead’s attacking play and being a constant goal threat.
After the game he highlighted his own personal goal target for the remainder of the season and his happiness at staying with Peterhead.
For someone who has only played a handful of senior games, Duncan appears to be taking the challenge with an assurity and maturity beyond his years.
McInally has talked glowingly about his ability with his left foot, comparing him in passing to Celtic’s Tom Rogic, and how good he is with a dead ball.
But perhaps the biggest compliment you can pay to him is that when he is playing, you feel like you have to watch him.
Against Cove Duncan played wide on the right of a front three, which gave him the freedom to either drive into the channel vacated by the opposition playing a back three or roam infield to link play.
Whichever avenue he chose to go down, decisions were made quickly. There was little pondering or sluggishness about his play. He played like someone who wanted to make things happen and was happy with that pressure.
Time to kick on for the second half of the season🤞 https://t.co/9zmahf7kc5
— Ryan Duncan (@Ryan_duncan10) December 30, 2021
He is not built like a typical wide player either, a position you expect to be occupied by a diminutive player with a low centre of gravity. His tall frame means he is not someone who can be manhandled easily by opposing defenders.
Given Duncan’s confidence in possession, it would have been easy to sit him in the centre of the park and let him be another ball-player, dictating things from deep.
But using his ability on the ball and his physical strengths in this inside-right role may well be a masterstroke. It keeps him involved in the game and makes him a threat the opposition has to account for.
Duncan is still at the beginning of his career and obviously, a myriad of things can happen to stop players fulfilling their potential. A lid will have to be put carefully on any expectations.
But, having signed a new contract with the Dons towards the end of 2021, Duncan’s development will be worth keeping an eye on.
The potential is coming out in his performances just now and under McInally at Peterhead, he is in a great environment to improve as a footballer. He is far better off testing himself in the ultra-competitive League One than training day-to-day without any competitive football to play.
McInally has already relied on fledgling talent this season in the form of Josh Mulligan, Lyall Cameron and Flynn Duffy, all of whom are under 20.
Duncan is younger still than that trio but may well prove to be just as important.