Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes insists he had to put the club’s rising young talent out on loan to give them vital game time.
Six Dons have been farmed out to Scottish lower league clubs, including 22-year-old striker Bruce Anderson.
Having completed a season-long loan to Championship side Ayr on transfer deadline day, Anderson made an impressive start by scoring a double in their 5-2 League Cup group stage defeat of Albion Rovers on Tuesday.
Striker Michael Ruth and midfielder Miko Virtanen are on loan with the Championship’s Arbroath, with Ethan Ross playing in the same division with Raith Rovers.
Defender Jack MacKenzie has been sent on loan to League One Forfar Athletic, with midfielder Connor Barron joining Brechin City in League Two.
McInnes confirmed the decision was made solely to aid players by delivering game time the development league will not provide.
He said: “What we’re finding at the minute is a need for younger players to go out on loan to clubs.
“It has never been about finance for us in terms of putting youngsters out to lower league teams; it has been about development.
“However, because of the development league being up in the air and some teams unable to commit to it, we’re concerned about a group of players who need game time. It was important that we find them the right home to play football.”
Centre-forward Anderson began the opening game of the campaign against Rangers as last season’s top-scorer Sam Cosgrove was ruled out by a knee injury.
Striker Curtis Main was also sidelined as he was recovering from knee surgery undergone during the summer shutdown.
Cosgrove and Main are both set to return from injury this month. Loan signings Marley Watkins (Bristol City) and Ryan Edmondson (Leeds), at Pittodrie until January, would likely further lessen the chance of a start for Anderson.
Aberdeen have inserted a call-back clause into Anderson’s loan deal to take him back to Pittodrie in January if required. Anderson has been assured by McInnes he has a first-team future at Pittodrie.
Midfielder Virtanen, 21, spent a successful loan at Abroath last season and earned the club’s Young Player of the Year award.
Arbroath manager Dick Campbell was keen to secure the Finland U21 international on another loan deal this season.
Campbell also welcomed striker Ruth on a season-long loan deal.
Prior to joining Arbroath, the 18-year-old signed a two-year contract extension tying him to the Dons until summer 2022.
McInnes said: “The development league is just not going to be able to provide enough games for these boys. Some of them have been back training for four months and have had no game time.
“They were just training for training’s sake.
“We had to be mindful of that because it is not right.”
Midfielder Ross, 19, moved on loan to Raith Rovers and has featured four times for the Dons first team. He spent six months on loan at Dunfermline last year.
Defender MacKenzie, 20, who is at Forfar, and midfielder Barron, 18, at Brechin have gone out on loan for the first time.
Loan spells have benefited players, Aberdeen and lower league clubs in the past.
Scotland cap Scott McKenna was on loan at Ayr the season before his Dons breakthrough. He was sold for £3 million to Nottingham Forrest last month.
McInnes said: “We needed to get them out playing games and worked hard to get them football.
“They are all good enough to improve a lot of clubs in the lower leagues.”