The best parts of my job are handing out contracts to exciting young players and watching them progress to be involved at first team level.
Within two weeks I’ve been lucky to do both. After earning a professional contract, it was fantastic to see Kyle Bell named in the first team squad and ultimately making the bench on Saturday. This is exactly what the Development Squad is about.
To say Kyle was surprised when I told him he was among the 18 players chosen to face Dumbarton is an understatement! He genuinely thought I was pulling his leg due to him only officially being a Rovers player for less than two weeks. He also thought there might be others ahead of him in the pecking order, but he’s performed well in training, produced a number of good performances in development games and impressed the gaffer enough to be given his chance. It’s an example to the other lads of what can happen if you do well when you train with the first team.
Players can be performing well in development games, scoring goals and doing all the right things, which is great and that’s what we’re looking for, but you’ve got to add to that on a daily basis, especially when called upon to train with the first team.
Are you confident in that environment? Do you look like you belong there? Can you handle the physical aspect?
Sometimes fans notice players doing well in development games and wonder when they’ll get to see them in action. But we see them every day, and look at how they’re progressing and shaping up against our best players in the first team.
If I’m being honest, that’s as important as playing consistently well in development games.
The two bits need to match up for them to get an opportunity, and it has to be the right time to put them in. There was a space on the bench on Saturday and Kyle earned it.
It was a great experience for him and hopefully we can get a few more players involved in the coming months. James Berry, Ryan Stevenson, Andreas Thorsen and Dave Mckay have had a taste of it earlier in the season - Yaw Osei as well - so there are quite a few who know what it’s like to be around the first team on a match day.
I also felt it was important that the full squad all travelled down to Tynecastle last Wednesday night. Experiencing the atmosphere at that level and a cup tie of that nature up close is another part of their football education. It can help them aspire to be involved in games like that in the future.
Our development game against Cowdenbeath last week had to rescheduled because of the Hearts replay, so we organised a friendly against Kelty Hearts. It was important to keep the team playing after our fixtures break over Christmas.
We won 2-1, and I was absolutely delighted with the way the boys played against a very good, experienced junior side with players who have had decent professional careers.
We lost fairly convincingly to Bonnyrigg Rose at the start of season, so it shows how far we’ve come that we can compete with Kelty, who are leading that league by over 20 points. We played with a good tempo and intensity, matched them physically, defended well and deserved the win.
We were happy with the performance and hopefully we can take it into the Cowdenbeath game, which has been rescheduled for this midweek.