HEARTS defender Ryan McGowan believes disbanding the SPL reserve league was a “terrible” idea and stressed young players’ development is now suffering because of it.
The Australian spent several weeks sitting in the stand earlier this season until the suspension and subsequent injury suffered by Danny Grainger allowed him back into the first-team.
During that period, 22-year-old McGowan grew increasingly frustrated by the lack of game time available to him. He was not involved with the first-team squad and, with no reserve side, had no other opportunity to maintain match sharpness.
He feels other young footballers in Scotland are suffering in the same way without the chance to play reserve football.
“I can’t really understand why they took it away in the first place,” said McGowan. “Not a lot of 19-year-olds are in the first-team in the SPL so what are they going to do? I just think it’s a terrible idea. I don’t know any other place where they don’t have a back-up league.
“It is for players coming back from injury who can’t get a game, or young boys doing well for the under-19s. They say it’s about money but to put a game on can’t really cost too much.”
Since returning to the first-team, McGowan has excelled out of position at left-back. He is expected to continue there with Grainger not due back until next month at the earliest. The player believes his best position is central defence but he is happy to play in any role for Hearts.
“Maybe centre-back, that’s probably where I’ve played most throughout my short career,” he told the Hearts website when asked about his favourite position. “But I can play full-back. I played right-back a bit at Ayr (on loan). I played centre midfield when there used to be a reserve league and (also on loan) at Partick Thistle.”