Peterhead manager Jim McInally believes partnerships between Scotland’s top clubs and lower league sides could be the way forward in youth development.
The coronavirus pandemic has had an impact on youth development with reserve and development football shelved and many young players being left with a lack of opportunities.
Scotland’s bigger clubs loan players out to lower league clubs each season, but earlier this term Premiership side Hibs went a step further and announced a “unique partnership” with League Two outfit Stenhousemuir.
As a result some of the Hibees’ talented youngsters joined the Warriors on loan.
Blue Toon boss McInally believes partnerships between Scotland’s bigger clubs and lower league sides could work well as it would allow young players with potential to get first-team action alongside experienced players.
Scotland’s longest serving manager said: “I can see young players in academies struggling because this has been a disaster for them, but it might help the clubs restructure it a wee bit, which wouldn’t be a bad thing if they were to streamline it a bit.
“I know Stenhousemuir have done it with Hibs and I do think there is something to be said for the bigger clubs having a partnership with a feeder team for their better young players.
“I’m pretty sure the football people at the clubs would see that as a good idea, but it’s not the football people who make these decisions, sometimes they can be based on other factors.”
Prior to the suspension of lower league football in Scotland last month McInally had two young prospects as part of his Peterhead squad.
Defender Kieran Freeman, 20, was on loan from Dundee United and 18-year-old winger Lyall Cameron was loaned to the Blue Toon by Dundee.
McInally was delighted with the contribution they made at Balmoor and felt Freeman and Cameron’s parent clubs also saw the benefit.
He added: “I know James McPake (Dundee manager) was delighted with how it went for Lyall and I spoke to Brian Grant (Dundee United’s head of player pathway) about how it went for Kieran and they seemed pleased as well.
“I do think there’s a lot of merit in it. It wouldn’t need to even be one club, you could even have a link with two clubs.
“I think it would help get it closer to what it was before where the clubs would select the players they really thought would make it, rather than keeping players for the sake of making up a team.”
McInally hopes more of Scotland’s big clubs may look at linking up with sides in the lower leagues as Hibs have done.
The former Dundee United and Scotland international midfielder said: “I’d hope more clubs might look at it. I’m pretty sure if you went to the managers of the top clubs they would see the value in it.
“The problem is that these clubs have got to have these academies to get licensing money and they want to play in Uefa Youth Leagues and all the rest of it.
“Really when you look at Celtic in the past few months they’ve not really had a player come out of their academy in the last few months to help them through the troubled times they’ve had.
“Rangers have been going down to England to sign younger players and that’s not very inspiring when it comes to what their academies are producing.”