STUART Armstrong’s rise to the top has shown aspiring professionals in this country as well as the game’s authorities not to disregard boys club football, according to his former youth coach.
The central midfielder sealed a £7 million switch to English Premier League club Southampton during the summer.
Dyce Boys Club, where Armstrong spent five years playing as a boy, have, much to their surprise, now pocketed a six-figure windfall from his sale.
Transfers can generate solidarity payments to the clubs who trained the player during their formative years under FIFA regulations.
Ronnie Cromar, who coached Armstrong at under-15 level, believes the success of their famous alumnus proves to kids they can still make it in the game if they are overlooked for or released by the pro-youth set-up.
“Stuart went to Ipswich Town and didn’t quite make it there,” said Cromar. “Aberdeen were sniffing about him, but didn’t take him. He went to Inverness and was doing well there, but they didn’t select him.
“He was quite frail at that time, a small tanner ba’ player, a skilful kid who liked going on the wing. He showed in the younger age groups that he could control and pass and do things on the ball. But he didn’t have the strength at that time.
“I think pro clubs are so easy to dismiss kids at that age because they aren’t 6ft 4in. They are too quick to discard boys. They are trying to get the next Darren Fletcher quickly. But sometimes that takes time. People develop at different ages.
“It was just his size. He wasn’t strong enough at that time. But now he is a young man he is strong and capable of looking after himself. He has grown into a good football player. I think it will be a good thing for parents to see.
“It shows the importance of believing in yourself. His mum and dad believed in him and his coaches at Dyce believed in him. Obviously, he had the ability.
“It is an education really – you think you’ve failed, but you keep on trying and your ability comes through in the end.
“The SFA has certainly looked at his example. He had been rejected two or three times, but he stuck with the boys club. He was always determined, but we encouraged him as well. We worked with him. We are as proud as anyone at how he has gone on and done.”
Cromar added: “United made him a better player. Then he went to Celtic, won two trebles and made history. I was speaking to him the other day and he said that he had loved it there, but wanted to go and try something else down in England. He couldn’t do anything more with them.
“He is always challenging himself and that is a good thing. He could have sat at Celtic for another three or four years if he had wanted to. But he wanted to go to another level. Southampton are a selling club and they may move him on to a top six club in a few years’ time. That is his aim.”
Dyce was also where Russell Anderson, Scott Booth, Darren Mackie and Andrew and Graeme Shinnie started out in the game. Cromar stressed the money from Armstrong’s transfer has been gratefully received.
“It costs about £40,000 a year to run the club,” he said. “Training facilities in the Aberdeen area cost a fortune. We haven’t decided how to spend the money yet, but it won’t be squandered. Stuart is going to come and present trophies when he is free. He is the kind of lad who wants to do these things.