Armstrong hails United as ideal platform for youth

THESE are thrilling times for Stuart Armstrong, exciting times for young players in Scotland. While voting for Young Player of the Year has been whittled down to four contenders, the Dundee United midfielder says there is a wealth of youthful talent in the game.
Stuart Armstrong: Mainstay. Picture: SNSStuart Armstrong: Mainstay. Picture: SNS
Stuart Armstrong: Mainstay. Picture: SNS

His team-mate Johnny Russell has been the subject of interest from Serie A side Catania and while 21-year-old Armstrong is hoping the Tannadice club can hold on to him, he believes the striker has the ability to make it in Italy.

“He is very level-headed and he would take it in his stride,” says Armstrong of a man who is just two years older than him. “I think he could handle it. Johnny is a very talented player who has played a number of years at Dundee United and has got better and better with every season. This year he has scored a phenomenal amount of goals and he has been very important – a player we have missed over the past few games. It is encouraging to see big clubs like that come to watch the players. He has a good chance to move further on and further his career.”

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Armstrong is fortunate, he says, to be at a club that is willing to give kids a platform and to be coming through the ranks at a time when finances dictate that more clubs follow suit.

“Dundee United are a good club for bringing through youngsters. There’s the likes of myself and Gary Mackay-Steven and we’ve got Ryan Gauld and John Souttar coming through as well and others in the background, so it’s very promising.

“I’m quite surprised Ryan and John have come through as quickly as they have but it’s maybe because our squad isn’t as big as it used to be and there are more opportunities.

“It makes me feel quite old when you look at John who’s 16 and Ryan Gauld who can’t drive and is 17. But it’s good, they’re great players and don’t look out of place. It’s encouraging that so many young players are getting their chance.”

The calibre of the candidates for the Young Player of the Year award spells out just how vital these young footballers are to the clubs. Along with Armstrong and Mackay-Steven, Celtic’s Victor Wanyama looked at ease on the Champions League stage, while Hibs’ Leigh Griffiths has also made it on to the Players’ Player of the Year shortlist.

Having made his debut in November 2010, with 39 appearances this term Armstrong has been a mainstay of the United side which has battled its way into the top six and is now chasing down a European place.

“Having experience is important when things aren’t going right to calm people down and to have a back-up plan, but if you have good young players then they should be given their chance.

“This feels like quite a good achievement,” he said of his Young Player of the Year shout. “Personally, it is an honour and I didn’t expect to be nominated, but I think I have come on this season.

“I have become more a regular in the first-team and become the Scotland under-21 captain. Adding this to the season makes it very pleasing.”