Paul Hartley hopes the loan players who helped Cove Rangers last season can kick on back at their parent clubs.
Cove finished the season with five players on loan from other teams – Kieran Ngwenya, Kevin Hanratty, Connor Smith, Cammy Logan and Ross Graham – as they finished third in League One.
Graham featured most often out of the five for Cove and has aspirations of challenging for a first-team berth at Dundee United.
Smith and Logan have had brief tastes of first-team opportunities at Hearts but manager Robbie Neilson intends to use the Premier Sports Cup games as a chance for the youngsters to impress.
Of the pair on loan from Aberdeen, Ngwenya made his international debut for Malawi recently against Tanzania while Hanratty signed a new long-term deal.
Hartley said: “It was good for Kieran. He’s a nice kid and it was a good experience for him, being with us. That was the whole purpose, to come into our environment and see what it’s all about.
“It was a test of his ability and character but he was a good kid to work with.
“It’s the whole purpose of the young players being in, to get the experience and go push into the squad at their parent club. If they can’t, they need to forge a career somewhere else.
“Knowing they’ve had the experience of playing in League One, which is a strong league with good opponents, is different to what they’ve had coming through the academy.
“We’ve had good relationships with some of the clubs; they know they’re coming to a good environment and playing football in the right way.”
The Cove boss pointed to how beneficial the experience has to be for some of these younger players, who may have limited game-time outside of academy football.
He said: “They know they have to win. Our boys, it’s their livelihoods. As a young player you can’t beat that experience.
“The gap is massive between league football and academy football. It’s a different game, playing against stronger opponents. It’s an eye-opener for them and I was pleased with our young players.”
Graham was the most prominent of the loan players at the Balmoral Stadium, making 24 appearances during his switch from United.
He emerged as one of the more impressive performers in the second half of the campaign, forming a strong centre-back partnership with Cove regular Ryan Strachan.
Hartley added: “Ross was terrific. He got our young player of the year. He came back at the turn of the year and was brilliant for us.
“He’s a smashing boy and wanted to learn. He’s a good professional and I think that’s important.”