Youth policy helps United record a tidy £1.5m profit
DUNDEE United chairman Stephen Thompson saw his faith in the club’s youth system come to fruition with a near £1.5million profit in the most recent financial year.
The sale of home-grown duo David Goodwillie to Blackburn and Scott Allan to West Brom brought in more than £2.1m in transfer cash and helped United reduce their bank debt to £3.7m in July this year.
United spend £700,000 on their under-age teams each year and the input is paying off in more ways than one with the current first team featuring academy products such as Johnny Russell and 16-year-old Ryan Gauld.
Thompson said: “We have signed up Stuart Armstrong who is the Scotland under-21 captain, and we have a lot of young talent coming in at under-19 and under-17 level.
“It got lost for a number of years at this club and it takes a number of years to get it back again.
“It’s absolutely the way forward for the club, getting youngsters into the first team and hopefully you get the odd sale that reduces the debt, because my ambition is to clear the debt but to have a successful team on the park.”
Although United sold Goodwillie from a strong negotiating position, they were unable to persuade Allan to extend his contract in similar fashion and offloaded him to West Brom in January in order to prevent him leaving under freedom of contract.
The 20-year-old had only made four starts for United and Thompson admits it is a challenge to secure transfer fees for young players. “When players are 16 and 17 you can only put them on three-year contracts,” he said.
“So at 19 and 20 suddenly they break into the first team and are out of contract.
“Don’t get me started about agents, some are very good and some are out to make money. Stuart Armstrong has shown his commitment by extending his contract.
“We’ll try hard, you are not going to win in every case. Some players will want to move on and be encouraged to move on.
“It’s up to us to show United is the right place, they will get a chance here. They have to ask whether it will be better to play first-team football at United or go down to England and play reserve football.”
Despite last year’s healthy figures, Thompson has predicted a loss for the current 12-month period after turning down offers for Russell in August.
But he insists there is no chance the youth system will stop being value for money.
“Not if you’re getting players through to your first team,” he said. “If we never get a fee for Johnny Russell, he has 18 months left on his contract, he has played for the first team for a few years and we’ll have money back for his contribution on the park.
“When you get guys who have never made the first team and are snapped up because they are seen as an emerging talent, that’s when you feel you are getting nothing back.”
Next year’s results will also be affected by the loss of Rangers from the SPL but United gained a city derby with neighbours Dundee after the Ibrox club were consigned to liquidation. “From a Dundee United point of view, Armageddon never happened,” Thompson said. “Sky and ESPN signed a new contract and the game has moved on.
“We had a really exciting game here against Aberdeen last Saturday – great crowd, open football and one or two young players. I thought it was a great advert for our game.
“It was a hard summer but we have moved on and I don’t want to talk about Rangers at all, I want to talk about my own club.”
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