When news emerged at the beginning of the year that Dundee United were sending Louis Appere, pictured, out on loan to junior side Broughty Athletic, one Twitter contributor was quick to posit that it was now all over for the young striker.
Not just in terms of his prospects at Tannadice, but as a professional footballer full stop. “Do any players that go out on loan to junior outfits make it as a pro?” the writer wondered.
To be fair, he or she had a point. It is unusual. The junior game, with its reputation for big, ugly centre-halves and, well, big, ugly centre-forwards, seems far removed from the senior set-up. Once in its grip, is there any way out? Can a young, skilful football hope to flourish in that environment? Well, Appere managed it. He shrugged off the doubters and focused on performing well in the East Region Super League, where he scored 22 goals in 20 games. “It showed him what men’s football is all about,” said manager Robbie Neilson. United have sent out another two young players, centre-half Michael McArthur and midfielder Alassan Jones, on loan to Broughty Athletic. Neilson is clearly convinced about the benefit.
It certainly takes some effort to leave people drooling about a performance on an afternoon when someone else scored four goals.
But for United fans, last week’s 4-1 win over Inverness was not just about Lawrence Shankland. Appere provided further notice of his coming of age after initially creating interest three years ago when he was invited for a trial at AS Roma having come to their attention via YouTube after starring for AM Soccer, the youth academy founded by Hearts assistant manager Austin MacPhee. It’s an unlikely route that proves it’s not all about pathways and performance schools.