Boss Malky Mackay insists, far from being forgotten, Ross County’s five loanee kids at Highland League clubs are being tracked daily to prepare for their Dingwall return.
Young midfielder Ryan MacLeman’s loan switch to Clach this week was the latest move for starlets not quite ready for first-team action.
When Mackay arrived at the club ahead of a major summer overhaul, the group of youngsters were within the senior squad after 15 players had moved on.
Academy Graduate Ryan MacLeman has tonight joined Highland League side Clachnacuddin on loan, initially to January 2022.
— Ross County FC (@RossCounty) August 31, 2021
The new manager has been impressed by how they shaped up, but now a range of senior players have arrived during the transfer window, it’s up to the teenagers to grasp their chance in the men’s environment of the Highland League.
Mackay said: “We have spoken to the Highland League clubs that we have placed our youngsters to.
“(Full-back) Ben Williamson has gone to Nairn County and has started playing there, (goalkeeper) Logan Ross has gone to Lossiemouth and is starting there, (midfielder) Adam MacKinnon has just signed for Brora and Matthew (Wright) is already at Brora, and young (midfielder) Ryan McLeman has joined Clach.
“They will be here for part of the week and be under our control. It’s not a case of dumping them and letting them go. We will be monitoring them.
“Those five kids have got a genuine chance of being Ross County players in the future and that’s why we’ve kept training them and drilling them and pushing them hard. It will stand this club in good stead for the future.
“They will have the chance to pull on a Ross County jersey and move on from here and be successful professionals because of the link and the work we have with the Highland League at the moment.”
Young talent should follow pathway
The former Scottish FA performance director knows all about progressing young players and worked with SPFL clubs in order to advance careers in the right manner.
Mackay explained that the young group he came across when he came in to replace John Hughes in May showed up well when they were pitched in with the seniors before they really should have been.
He added: “In my last job at the Scottish FA, one of the conversations I had regularly with the chairman of the SPFL was about the plan they have got for the X-factor youngsters. There needs to be a map or pathway for young kids at a club to enjoy.
“When I came in, we had five youngsters who were near enough starters or coming off the bench in our first pre-season game at Elgin. They should have been nowhere near the first-team squad. They were trying to learn their trade.
“However, great credit to the five youngsters. They have trained hard with me and the men, the first-team squad, and the difference in them is night and day.
“These kids have been thrown in with adults, but they have applied themselves and they have talent. The strides they have taken in three months because they have had to train with the first-team and the demands myself and the coaching staff have put on them is really going to stand them in good stead going forward.
“However, there was a point where we needed them to go out on loan. It’s great we have the Highland League on our doorstep, which is a men’s league.”
Kids must take Highland League leap
The Staggies manager reckons if the young players deal with their loan stint in the right manner they can return to the Global Energy Stadium ready to challenge for senior squad places.
He said: “At the Scottish FA, I would regularly talk to the clubs about how to try and get youngsters to play against men as quickly as possible, when they are physically ready.
“It is the best way of making strides of being a man yourself and going back to your club and playing men’s football.
“The quicker a youngster embraces leaving the comfort of their club and going somewhere else, the better. If they do embrace it, they come on leaps and bounds.”