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Sore paw not enough to stop St Mirren's pack of pups

THE Class of '13.

It is not likely to become the title of a documentary film mapping the rise of another group of footballers but the story has still gained some momentum in Paisley this season.

It involves a bunch of players who have graduated through the system at St Mirren and have since regrouped in the first team; Jason Naismith, John McGinn, Sean Kelly, Thomas Reilly and Kenny McLean are all names which have been transferred from youth team watch lists to SPFL Premiership team sheets. Each could make their mark again in Aberdeen this afternoon.

The plot of that fixture could develop to bring St Mirren to the cusp of the league's top six places, although there is perhaps more interest in the cast. With the exception of Reilly - who remains an understudy to striker Steven Thompson - the club's younger generation are finding esteem and regular football this season, with Kelly scoring the third goal in a rather perfunctory win over Queen of the South in a William Hill Scottish Cup fourth round replay earlier this week.

It was a moment which would seem emblematic of the sangfroid shown by the callow full-back this season, even if the 20-year-old would then shed that cloak of maturity and challenge Naismith over Twitter to score more this term.

The teenager would appear to be up for it - "If he wants a competition I'm happy to oblige . . ." - although the full-back will first have to regain his starting place. Naismith has proven to have got a handle on the demands of first-team football but can acknowledge that the door will not always be open since the experience of David van Zanten was preferred on Tuesday night. The merits of both players will be weighed against each other again today given the challenges presented by Aberdeen's forwards, with only two teams scoring more league goals than the Pittodrie side this season.

Naismith will not be left feeling alone even if he is left out, though, as his links to his former academy team-mates have been strengthened by their bond to the first team. "I'm really good friends with John [McGinn], he's one of my best mates at the club," said Naismith. "It's good having a few guys coming through at the same time. Sometimes players will need time to gel in a team but we've known each other for years.

"I've played with John since I came to the club. I was on loan [at Morton] last season but to see how well he's done, it bolsters you. I wouldn't say he's my inspiration - I wouldn't want his head to grow - although in certain aspects he maybe has been. I could look up to him and see I could [break into the first team] too."

The St Mirren squad has been infused with a sense of optimism, too, and the side have gone six matches without defeat. It is a run which has remained intact despite a suspected fracture for forward Paul McGowan. "He's just got a wee sore paw so he has gone away and licked it like a wee puppy and it's got better," said Danny Lennon, the St Mirren manager.

Such a gentle prognosis was not emulated by Ryan Jack, as the Aberdeen midfielder considered the rejuvenation being enjoyed by St Mirren. Jack had always expected that the Paisley side were in a false league place earlier in the campaign but has not found the position of Peter Pawlett to be as unexpected. Nominally a winger, the Aberdeen player has since thrived in a more central position. "If he keeps progressing I can definitely see him in a Scotland jersey next season, if not this year, if he keeps it up," said Jack.

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