Jim McIntyre is warning the influx of young talented players at Ross County they must earn every minute of first-team action through hard endeavour.
The Staggies manager has been encouraged by the pre-season performances and work ethic of the graduates from Stuart Kettlewell’s title-winning development squad, both at home and at the club’s La Manga training camp.
But McIntyre also knows the six younger players promoted this summer are still adapting to the high physical and mental demands of life in the senior squad.
Some of them turned in strong performances in a 5-1 closed-doors friendly victory against St Mirren on Wednesday but the message is there will be no automatic places in the manager’s first-team selection.
Preparing for today’s League Cup group opener against Alloa at Dingwall, McIntyre stressed: “The younger players did really well against St Mirren.
“There have been patches in pre-season where they’ve dipped and we’re going to get that inconsistency with the young lads. We had a word with them at the end of the week in La Manga and they seem to have taken that on board.
“Every day you need to train hard as you possibly can to get into this team because there are a lot of good players here at the club. But they did themselves no harm against St Mirren. There was some fantastic play and some really good goals.
“We were really pleased with how we finished that last pre-season game but it’s about what we do now.
“It’s so important we start the cup well against Alloa at home.
“You would be a fool just to rely on the six young boys who are promoted. We’ve got to have a balance and let these boys grow in a first-team environment, with all the demands that come with that.
“Playing in front of crowds, the pressure that comes when there is a spell of indifferent results – these are all things they have to adapt to. “But, equally, if they’re doing well, they will be in our thoughts, that’s for sure.”
McIntyre is determined to see County start the season far more positively than they did a year ago when they finished a poor third in the qualifying group behind Alloa and Raith Rovers.
He added: “It is a no-lose situation for Alloa.
“We’ve got to handle that, being the Premier League club but if we make sure we do the right things, I’m confident we can get a positive result.”
Craig Curran is back in full training after taking a head-knock at the start of the month against Elgin City.