Who is Scottish football’s next big thing? Who could be the next James McFadden or Andy Robertson? Here at Youth Football Scotland we’re casting our eye over the main SPFL teams to find just who’s on the cusp of breaking out.
Signing players has become an increasingly important factor in the Scottish leagues with Celtic running away with the titles year in year out, the rest doing their best to close the gap. However, at times the very talent needed to get results can be found within the club itself.
Hearts in the past turned to their youth in the season that saw them win the Championship title under Robbie Neilson. This turned out to be a great decision as the team continued to impress under this philosophy upon their return to the Premiership.
Now with the departure of Ian Cathro, the club may seek to return to this model which brought them success in the past. Giving the young players a better chance than any to make their mark in the first team.
Joining the club at the age of 14, Liam Smith has been doing his bit to make sure he is noticed by the first team, especially now since he's been sent out on loan to St Mirren. The full back who is comfortable playing on both sides has captained the Under 20s side for two seasons and has also featured for the Under 21 Scotland side.
The 21-year-old born in Dalgety Bay made his first team debut on the August 20 2014 and has gone on to make 39 first team appearances, 17 of which have been for Hearts. Spending periods on loan with East Fife and Raith Rovers, Smith has improved over the seasons.
Former head coach Cathro spoke to the Edinburgh Evening News about Smith perhaps spending this season on loan saying: “Whatever happens with Liam, it will be a collective thing. It will be a decision I can control regarding what’s best for the squad and the development of the player.” The season-long loan to the Buddies will provide Smith with the chance to experience first-team football
Smith enjoyed spells with Hillfield Swifts Boys Club and Rangers before he signed for Hearts. With the Tynecastle club conceding 54 goals last season, the youngster could be the answer to solving problems at the back.
Although defence is key to seeing out results, an attacking prowess is just as important. That's why Alistair Roy's loan spell with Dumbarton this season is so important. Game time for the 20-year-old will allow him to develop into a more established striker in a tough Championship league.
Born in Airdrie, Roy signed for Hearts in 2014, joining from Kilsyth Rangers. He made his competitive debut soon after against Livingston when he was just 17. Three years on and the forward has enjoyed loan spells with East Stirling and Stenh'semuir, beginning his third loan spell this season with Dumbarton and featuring for Hearts’ under 20 side last season too. Back in May he extended his contract with the Edinburgh side, keeping him at the club until 2019. His tall attacking presence makes him difficult to defend against and if he has a successful spell with Stephen Aitken’s side, his return to Hearts’ first team may not be so far away.