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Across the street, but doing just as well . . .

THE products of Ian Cathro's sterling youth development work can be discovered on both sides of Tannadice Street.

Craig Wighton has featured 11 times for Paul Hartley's Dundee at the age of just 16. Picture: SNS
Craig Wighton has featured 11 times for Paul Hartley's Dundee at the age of just 16. Picture: SNS

Craig Wighton spent four years at the same illustrious Cathro Coaching Clinic where Ryan Gauld and John Souttar first came to prominence, only to resist the chance to join them at Dundee United on the orders of his Dundee-supporting family.

Judging by the 11 first-team appearances which the 16-year-old striker has already made for Paul Hartley's promotion-chasing side, registering his first senior goal in November against Raith Rovers - not to mention a fine, goalscoring display for Scotland's under-17 side against Bosnia-Herzegovina on Monday night - it is an arrangement which does not seem to be doing him too much harm.

The player revealed last night that at least part of his motivation is derived from the chance to renew those old acquaintances on derby day next season, should Dundee consolidate their slender advantage over Hamilton Academical at the top of the SPFL Championship. "I was there for four years and Ian Cathro [now at Rio Ave in Portugal] was a great coach," said Wighton. "A lot of boys have been there - Ryan Gauld and John Souttar were there, as were Euan Spark and Scott Smith - and when you see how well they are doing a lot of that is down to Ian Cathro - his coaching was brilliant. Everything he does is with the ball and when you are younger it is great just to learn skills and do 1v1s, and 2v2s.

"Ryan and John were in the top group from the start obviously, while I was a couple of years younger and worked my way up from the bottom group, so I maybe only trained with them for six months to a year," he added. "But I do see them and speak to them now and then.

"I had the chance to join Dundee United but it was never an option for me - all my family are Dundee fans. I think my family would probably have disowned me if I had! Hopefully Dundee will get promoted, although Hamilton are also playing well just now, so we will see what happens.

"But to play in a derby would obviously be a great experience, and I would quite fancy coming up against them again. Hopefully if we do go up the derbies will be back on next year."

Wighton's talents have already seen him linked with top clubs south of the border, and more interest is unlikely to be far away if he continues his current progress. A lean, powerful, mobile striker capable of playing with his back to goal as well as bursting through the channels, that first-team experience stood him in good stead against the Bosnians, and further scouts will be in attendance at Cappielow against Belgium this evening. Impressing Dundee boss Paul Hartley, however, remains Wighton's main priority.

"There are a lot of good, experienced strikers at Dundee so I am just trying to learn from them in training every day and push as hard as I can to get more game time," he said.

"Obviously if a bigger club came in down the line then you never know, but at the moment I am just happy to be at Dundee for the next two to three years. If I went down to England then I would probably be playing with my own age group, but the Championship is a decent league with some good experienced players in it."

Mark Wotte, the SFA Performance Director, was effusive in his praise. "Every player who plays against him [Wighton] seems to underestimate him, because he is quicker than they think and more skilful than they think," the Dutchman said. "He has a little bit of an advance on the rest which is helpful to us."

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