TOMMY CRAIG insists that the homegrown products of St Mirren's youth set-up will not be compromised by the club's latest incursion into the English loan market.
The Paisley club have brought in Adam Drury and Ellis Plummer from Manchester City's Elite Development Squad with both players looking likely to feature heavily in the first team over the course of their season-long arrangements.
Such arrivals create obvious questions about the development of St Mirren's own young talent and the long-term benefits to the club, but Craig points to the successful past stays of the Newcastle United pair, Paul Dummett and Conor Newton, as proof that loan transfers can be mutually beneficial.
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"We have [Jason] Naismith, [Sean] Kelly, [John] McGinn and [Kenny] McLean, who have broken through recently, so we are not in any way neglecting our own academy," said the manager. "Our academy isn't the biggest, but there have been rapid improvements over the last few years. I accept we are providing a service to English clubs when we take their players here, but, in the time we had two Newcastle kids here, we won the League Cup.
"Paul and Conor had a big say in that. The Newcastle thing worked brilliantly for us as it showed the connection can work both ways.
"When the two Newcastle boys arrived here, there were question marks over whether they could cut it down there. After almost one year with us, one of them went back and went straight into the team.
"We were delighted with that, as were Newcastle. Conor Newton was released, but he was snapped up by Rotherham, so these loan deals can work. We are getting the benefit of the players and we can give them the competitive edge they won't get at under-20 level. It can work as long as it isn't abused and clubs are taking players for the right reasons.
"We know the kind of club we are. We develop players here and we are starting with kids as young as nine years old right through to their 20s. We know we are probably developing players for them to move to pastures new at the end of that development. We don't have any hang-ups about that at all."
Drury is in line to make his debut at home to Dundee tomorrow afternoon with Craig hoping he can earn St Mirren their first victory of the new season following two defeats.
The Paisley side have struggled to string together a satisfactory run of form in recent seasons and the manager has made that his main priority over the course of the campaign ahead in the hope of preventing it from descending into the usual battle to avoid relegation.
"If you take Celtic out of the equation there are 11 teams fighting for places," said Craig. "Yes, there is pecking order with the likes of Aberdeen and Dundee United having resources, but any team can go on a run of five, six or seven games. That is something St Mirren haven't done for quite some time. "We need to try and find that level of consistency. Dundee will fancy their chances after seeing our first two results, but I would happily take a repeat of the Motherwell game we lost 1-0. It had everything other than a goal. We were very poor when losing to Hamilton and you ask yourself the question of how there could be such a change in performance.
"I'm really bull-headed about trying to achieve a level of consistency that has been missing for quite some time at this club.
"If we win on Saturday, we go level with Dundee and probably one or two others. If it goes the other way, you are looking at a poor start.
"It is one of those games that could tip [things] either way."
Steven Thompson is back in training with Craig insistent that he is waiting for the right time to reintroduce him to the fray.
Meanwhile, John McGinn is set for an interesting afternoon tomorrow with his older brother Paul to face him in Dundee colours.
"It's an interesting one," said Craig. "How do kick your brother? You can imagine the emotional turmoil the parents will have when they see one up against the other and going for a 50-50.
"It'll be interesting to see how it pans out. There will be a battle of wills there because both are strong-minded characters."