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Malky Mackay plots pathway to top for Ross County kids as loan clubs keep tabs on talent

Ross County manager Malky Mackay was the Scottish FA performance director for four years until 2020.
Ross County manager Malky Mackay was the Scottish FA performance director for four years until 2020.

Malky Mackay has a vision to ensure the best talented youngsters at Ross County make the breakthrough at the Dingwall club just like Don Cowie did – then aim to follow in his footsteps.

There are a crop of mainly teenagers who are part of the first-team set-up right now as manager Mackay attempts to build a side capable of progressing within the Scottish Premiership.

He admits the high player turnover this summer had put these young guns higher up the pecking order than would normally be the case.

However, the former Scottish FA performance director is already using that experience used at national level to guide the kids on the correct path with the correct advice to ensure they have the best opportunity of making the senior step-up because they’ve earned it.

Ross County’s Ben Williamson is one of the many highly rated youths at the Dingwall club.

Goalkeeper Ross Munro, at 21, is the oldest of the young group looking to make inroads in the season ahead.

Defender Ben Williamson, 18, midfielder Adam Mackinnon, 18, forwards Ryan MacLeman, 17, and Matthew Wright, 18 were all in the squad which kicked pre-season off at Elgin on July 3.

Assistant boss Cowie, a County legend who played under Mackay, went on to star for Watford, Wigan and Cardiff City, earn 10 caps for Scotland and have two years at Hearts before returning home last year.

Cowie is ideal role model for any Staggies’ youngster to aim to follow

That kind of stellar career, says Mackay, can inspire the group who hope to forge a big future in the sport.

The manager said: “Don Cowie is a great role model for any of our young players, as someone who came from humble beginnings and through hard work, determination, effort – and massive talent – went on to play at the top level in England and international football.

“I actually said to the younger players a couple of days ago that I wanted to see them go on from here and become stars in England at some point.

Striker Matthew Wright in action for Ross County.

“They’ve got to have aspirations. We’ve got to make sure we’re part of their journey.”
Loaning out youngsters to get experience of men’s football is a live option in the near future for some of the Dingwall group.

Boys against men will be making of youngsters

Mackay pointed to England skipper Harry Kane as a player who flourished on the back of experiencing the game away from Tottenham before he returned to become a Spurs icon.

He explained: “Once we get the squad to the size we want, the balance is then about how we handle their little journey forward in the next couple of years.

“Having been involved with that pathway with Scotland, debating with Premier League teams about what they do with young players, we have three or four who we need to handle properly over the next couple of years.

“If we do, and we get them out playing against men quickly, our club has got the chance to have another three or four homegrown players who will definitely play for our first team if their progression continues with the potential I’ve seen already.

“A lot rests on how quickly they are exposed to men’s football.

Midfielder Adam MacKinnon.

“For me, they need to play with and against men. I know there are the conversations about Colts but, for me, playing alongside men is just as important as it is to play against them.

“If you look at players who have gone out on loan from big clubs and have gone out on two or three loan moves, they have dealt with the rigours and shock sometimes of playing against men.

“You them see how they come through that and there’s so many good examples of players who have thrived from loans, even in the Euros there.

“When I was down in England, Harry Kane had five loan moves before he ever pulled on a white jersey.

“When I was Watford manager, over the two and a half years, I probably had eight or nine young loan players who all became international footballers a few years later.

“There’s a balance to that because, sometimes, if the player is really promising he often ends up on the bench of the first-team.

“As much as that is great in one sense, in another it can set him behind another player who is maybe not quite as good as him, but goes out on loan and comes back a little bit better than him.”

Don Cowie, who is now assistant manager at Ross County, working alongside boss Malky Mackay.

Clubs keen to land youngsters on loans

And the Staggies gaffer revealed that there is already interest in some of the youngsters making folk sit up and notice at Victoria Park.

He added: “We’ve got young players here and there are already enquiries for three of them from four different clubs.

“That said, we’ll have to take care of our own numbers first.

“But I know how it should work for them and we will have a pathway. It is just as important that these lads and their families see where they’re path is for their future and I want to do the best for the club in that regard.

“We need to nurture them and ensure we have young players from the Highlands within this team because fans embrace that.

“They always give their own that wee bit longer to settle.

“It is good to see one of your own, from your home academy, thriving from the money the chairman has invested and the work the likes of chief executive Steven Ferguson has put in.

“It is important we do see the fruits of that.”

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