This season may not be classed as one of Turriff United’s most memorable in the Highland League – but they believe they will reap the rewards of this term’s hard work for years to come.
Over the course of this campaign and last season the Haughs club have turned increasingly towards promoting youth.
Turra manager Kris Hunter has been tasked with overseeing the blooding of many young prospects into the first team.
Although there have been some disappointing results along the way, and only three wins and three draws from 21 games so far this season, the club are united in their aim to nurture the core of a team that can stay together for years to come.
Hunter has handed debuts to 15 players in the past couple of seasons and has enjoyed the challenge of helping them adjust to the demands of the Highland League.
The United boss said: “It’s a work in progress, but it’s enjoyable – and frustrating at times.
“The good thing is that the players are getting better all the time and we’re seeing that improvement from week to week.
“Even in recent games, when we’ve lost they’ve kept going right to the end of games and shown character.
“There are a lot of young players but the way they train, play and conduct themselves – they’ve been a credit to themselves and to Turriff United.
“Some of them have big futures in the Highland League and some of them potentially at an even higher level.
“I’ve got to thank the club for the patience they’ve shown. This was the route they wanted to go down and we believe we’ll see the benefits in the next couple of seasons.
“It’s a challenge I enjoy and there’s little point in having a youth development programme if you’re not going to give them a chance.”
For Turriff chairman George Manson, one of the factors involved in opting to go with a youthful approach was to ensure the club could be run sustainably for years to come.
The Haughs supremo believes Hunter, who also managed the club between 2009 and 2011, is the man to lead the transition.
Manson added: “Kris knew the plans (when he returned to the club in February 2018) and was fully supportive of what we were trying to do.
“There’s no problem among the committee, we’re happy with the way it’s going.
“Kris had been there in our early days and then we got ahead of ourselves and maybe got more sponsorship money than we deserved and were maybe spending more money than we should have been.
“So we had to stand back and say we couldn’t sustain it. We had to try something different and youth was the obvious way.
“The fact we have so much local youth has helped as well – sometimes you won’t always get local youth, but we have it right now.
“But they’re not just playing because they’re local, it’s because they’re good enough.
“We’re probably at the low point, but I think we’ll see some improvement before the end of the season and much more next season.”
Dylan Stuart is one of the young players Hunter has handed an opportunity to.
He made his debut in September 2018 as a 16-year-old and has since established himself as a mainstay of the Turriff team.
The defender, who can also play in midfield, appreciates the chance he’s been given to play senior football at a young age and believes United are on the right path giving youth a chance.
Stuart, 17, said: “I’ve got to give Kris and his coaching staff a massive thanks.
“They’ve put trust in me because it’s a big thing to throw a 16-year-old into the Highland League.
“Kris has shown a lot of faith in me and I’ve got to thank him for that.
“It helps that there are a lot of young players, and for me personally my two best pals in Rory Brown and Luke Kinsella are also in the first team, so it helps that the three of us are playing together.
“Game by game I feel I’m getting better and better. I know there are still things I need to work on but I am doing that.
“As a team we’re getting better. There have been mistakes at times which have cost us, but in general we’re all looking to improve.
“Turriff give the players that come through the youth system a chance and that’s what football should be about as well.
“I want to keep playing as many games as I can and keep improving.
“Hopefully in the next couple of years we could win some silverware because that would be a proud moment.”