Four years ago, Adam Lallana was being linked loosely with a transfer from Southampton to Celtic after Wolverhampton Wanderers missed out on his services thanks to an ever so slightly impudent £500,000 offer being politely turned down.

He has since gone on to become an England internationalist, should be on the plane to his first World Cup finals this summer, has just been named in the PFA Team of the Season and is fancied to plump for a move to Barclays Premier League leaders Liverpool ahead of a host of other clubs including Manchester United as the auction for his services edges ever closer to the £20m mark.

Looks like staying put and learning his trade at St Mary's has worked out rather well for him, then.

Loading article content

Mark McGhee, the Scotland assistant manager, has paid close attention to the 25-year-old's steady rise to prominence and believes his example of making the right moves at the right time should serve as a lesson to the host of fresh, exciting talents at Dundee United.

Andy Robertson, a full-back who gallops up the left wing at Tannadice the way Desert Orchid used to attack Cheltenham hill, has just won the Cheque Centre PFA Scotland Young Player of the Year award ahead of his colleagues Stuart Armstrong and Ryan Gauld. Nadir Ciftci, whose goals seem to get progressively more outrageous as he adds to his campaign tally of 17, didn't even get a look-in.

All four of them are likely to attract interest from elsewhere during the upcoming transfer window and the temptation to leave for pastures new will likely be strong. Depending on the standard of the offers that arrive, their chairman Stephen Thompson, irrespective of his recent financial restructuring, may also find it impossible to prevent the pound signs from blinding his vision.

McGhee knows enough about the relatively impoverished world of Scottish football to realise that cold, hard cash is likely to have the greatest say of all in the future of United's Class of 2014, but he points to the likes of Lallana and his team-mate Jack Cork, a reported target for Everton, as players who have remained in situ despite advances from other clubs and are now poised to reap the benefits.

Others from the St Mary's club's youth system such as Luke Shaw and Calum Chambers are already, of course, being tipped for transfers to Manchester United and Arsenal respectively. Whether the pair also follow Lallana's lead remains to be seen.

"Some of those players, Lallana and the like, were getting mentioned with other clubs a while back," said McGhee. "They stayed and developed into established Premier League players and now they are in demand in a huge way. They are going to go to the really big clubs.

"I know it's a different set-up up here, but I think these [United] boys can only benefit from playing games. If they are good enough to go down south and go into a team at a really good level, then who can say that is the wrong thing to do? We want boys playing at as high a level as possible.

"However, for their education, it doesn't do them any harm whatsoever to be playing in a team like Dundee United. Like Southampton, that is a team which is only going to get better and better. They will benefit from that."

Jackie McNamara, the United manager, has encouraged his young players to concentrate on passing, on technical skills and on playing without fear. McGhee believes that the former Scotland internationalist is the ideal coach to take their development to the next stage, but accepts external factors may come into play. "The only barrier is money," he said. "If someone comes along and puts a wedge down, it is difficult."

Stevie May of St Johnstone was the fourth nominee for the young player of the year award. A proposed move to Peterborough United fell through in January after the striker stated that he wanted to stay and he is now poised to open contract negotiations with the Perth club, as Queens Park Rangers monitor his situation.

Again, McGhee believes the story of Southampton's most sellable asset should strike a chord with May. "I'm sure when Adam was in League One there were Championship clubs knocking on the door, but it wasn't Liverpool or Arsenal or Tottenham. He stuck it out," said McGhee.

McGhee also offered encouraging words to Armstrong, Robertson, Gauld and May over what may lie ahead for them at international level, with the qualifying campaign for Euro 2016 to begin in September. "If not at the start, a lot of these boys should really be in contention by the end of the campaign," he said.