Last season the SPFL sanctioned that all top Premiership clubs had the option of putting their Under 20s into the Irn Bru Cup to give them more competition at the top level. And this season they did the same and most clubs gave their youth that opportunity. So how did they fair?
It was the top teams in the premiership like Rangers Celtic and Hibs that all went out in the first round and it is difficult to see why when you compare it to the lower clubs of the league who went through. Rangers, Celtic, Hibernian and Hearts are the only teams in Scotland to have their own training facility and those four clubs all went out in the first round.
(Annan Athletic pushed Celtic Colts aside 3-1 in the tournament)
It's not to do with the youth not getting opportunities. In the most recent Celtic game they played four players who are under the age of 20. At the tail end of last season Pedro Caixinha gave first team debuts to Rangers youngsters David Bates, Aidan Wilson, Myles Beerman, Jamie Barjonas and Kyle Bradley.
So why are the Under 20s teams failing? Maybe it is something to with the mentality of the players. Maybe players like Calvin Miller and Myles Beerman, who are getting call ups to the first team, think that they would stroll against the part timers of Dumbarton and Albion Rovers. But they clearly didn’t stroll as they were, in the end, quite comfortably beaten. From watching both games it was clear to see the gulf in class from the lower division compared to the Under 20 sides of the top Premiership clubs.
At both Rangers and Celtic the youth teams train with the first team once a week so are the youth not learning from the experienced pros in Kenny Miller, Bruno Alves, Scott brown, Craig Gordon and Kolo Toure? It is clear to see from watching the games that they are not.
Then you have the curious case of Hamilton. 83.5% of the Hamilton first team squad all came from their youth academy. So why can’t Rangers and Celtic follow suit. Look at the players who have come through the Hamilton youth set up most notably, James McCarthy and James McArthur who are now main states in the Premier League in England. Also their former manager Alex Neil who is known for bringing through youth player just got Norwich city in to the premier league not too long ago.
The main noticable difference between the Under 20s and the part timers is the physicality in the part timers. Players like Ryan Hardie were bullied off the ball.
Overall all Scottish clubs must take a look at themselves in terms of youth set up. When Scottish football can get their youth sorted then we might see a difference in the quality of the national team and maybe then we can qualify for a major tournament.