Gary Mackay: We've moved on from players cleaning up dog poo but Hearts need more from Riccarton youth academy

Youth academy graduates have been conspicuous by their absence recently at Hearts. Hopefully the new academy director, Frankie McAvoy, can address this.

As supporters, we all want young players coming through and pushing the experienced guys for a place in the first team. We don't have that. Robbie Neilson made a comment a few days ago about Hearts coming through a tough period of games and using the least number of players. The reason for that is that we have a core of 15 or 16.

We don't have any younger players coming through who Robbie feels can withstand playing in the first team. That's because the youth project up until this point hasn't been good enough for a multitude of reasons.

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Any academy director has to see what the first-team coaches and management want regarding qualities in players. Then he has to adapt to push as many players through with those attributes in order to challenge the first-team players. It's obvious that we are not producing anything like the youth talent that a club like Hearts should be.

New Hearts academy director Frankie McAvoy. Pic: Heart of Midlothian FC.

Frankie McAvoy was at Hamilton when they had a very fruitful period and it would be great if we had something like that at our club. Other clubs continue introducing young players and that is a must for Hearts with the facilities they have at Riccarton.

This isn't just a recent problem, it’s been long-standing. Even prior to Craig Levein coming in, this has been an issue.

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I was at an event for Gary Locke's Testimonial last week and was chatting with Gary, Allan Johnston and a few others. We spoke about guys who came through the Hearts youth system with them – Grant Murray, David Murie, Kevin Thomas, etc.

These guys used to go with Sandy Clark to Roseburn two or three times a week. They would need to pick up dog poo before they could do their training session. Obviously there was no training ground back then. Once they removed the droppings and litter, then they could start the session.

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It was continual practice of right foot, left foot, different passing drills, driving the pass, clipping the pass, first touch. Maybe there is a different demand to get into the first team at Hearts now. Maybe I'm missing a trick given all the facilities they've got. Do I think that's right? I'm not so sure.

This is a situation Robbie has inherited. It hasn't been the last four or five years, it's been long before that.

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For example, Callum Paterson was at Tynecastle Boys club till he was almost 16. Christophe Berra was with Edina Hibs until the age of 17. Lee Wallace was at Salvesen until he was nearly 16.

So these guys have gone though the exact same process as Dave Bowman, John Robertson and myself went through. They didn't go through the Hearts youth academy. Their skills were honed at boys clubs.

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We need to get players whose skills are honed within the Heart of Midlothian environment at Riccarton. That’s a must for the long-term future of our club.

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