Bonded by a turbulent season off the pitch, Ross Millen insists Dunfermline’s youngsters are ready to finish it by bringing a double dose of success to their troubled club.
Millen, son of former Kilmarnock, St Mirren and Hibs defender Andy, is desperate to help lead the Pars’ stab at glory in their SFA Youth Cup final with Celtic this evening.
Then it will be back to the job of trying to keep the Fifers in the First Division with the victory over Airdrie United on Saturday that would guarantee their safety and condemn neighbours Cowdenbeath to a nail-biting relegation play-off.
The 18-year-old, now a regular right-back, and most of the rest of his under-20s colleagues have been drafted into East End Park first-team in recent weeks since administration led to the sacking of seven experienced players from Jim Jefferies’ squad.
Their outings were quickly given a more daunting perspective when the SFL docked Dunfermline 15 points and plunged them into a relegation battle with just four games remaining in a chaotic campaign.
However, Millen insists he and his young team-mates have it within them to cope with the pressures of trying to lead their club on two fronts in the space of just four days.
He said: “It’s been difficult, but we’ve all just kept together and we’ve done well. People have got themselves into training and everyone’s just mucked in together.
“I’m delighted to have been given my chance in the first team, over the moon. At the start of the season, I didn’t think that would happen but I think all the young boys have dealt with it really well. We’re up for the challenge and it’s been good.
“I think we’ve just tried to treat the first-team games like another game, just another under-20s game, just with more people there. We all know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and it’s good to play with people you’ve played with all season, really.
“Obviously, it wasn’t very nice to see the boys I knew, the older ones, lose their jobs. But, although it’s not been good for them, it’s been good for us, to get into the team, and, in terms of the first-team situation, I think we’ve all done it for them.”
Meanwhile, Celtic midfielder Callum McGregor is looking for his fourth Youth Cup win.
He is pleased just to have his injury problems behind him, after missing six months of the season due to a hip operation but, now he is back, he wants cup success.
He may not have been involved in the run up to the final this season, but that won’t stop him enjoying it just as much as the previous years should he get his hands on the silverware.
He was part of the side which defeated Inverness Caledonian Thistle last week to clinch the league title for the fourth consecutive year, but, for McGregor, that’s the job only half done.
“It will be difficult for me to top the last few finals,” he told the club’s website, “especially after six months out but, hopefully, I’ll play my part.
McGregor expects a tough match against the Pars. He added: “It’s not easy to get to cup finals, so we know how well they will have done to get there as well,” he said. “By all accounts they were excellent against St Mirren in the semi-final so we’ve got to approach it with the same mentality we’ve approached all the cup games this season and all the cup finals in the past.