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Stark hopes sun will not set on red dawn

In a parallel universe, Aberdeen are putting together a team to light up the north-east, a unit that will provide a line of talent not just to make Pittodrie proud, but to put a bit of red into the Scotland shirt.

This is a team built around players not only trained, but born and raised, in the city.

In this utopia Ryan Fraser, pictured, the breakthrough player of the season in the Clydesdale Bank Premier League, will accept the offer of a new contract and develop into a Scotland winger in his early 20s, before moving to England and making his hometown club millions. Fraser Fyvie will continue to turn down offers until he has established himself as Aberdeen captain and a Scotland regular, an immediate starter when he finally moves to a second-tier Barclays Premier League side. Jack Grimmer is building on his promise, his talent sharpened by game time in the SPL.

Ryan Jack, 22, is another Aberdonian who fills the stands with scouts. His versatility should not disguise a talent that has taken his game up a level. Around these youngsters from the city are Russell Anderson, Gavin Rae, Chris Clark and Andrew Considine – all Aberdeen natives, and all but Rae products of the youth programme at Pittodrie. Along with Clark Robertson, the Scotland Under-21 full-back and Cammy Smith, the forward pushing hard for a starting spot this season, this city has provided its club with an entire outfield line-up of genuine SPL starters in the past two seasons.

However, the real world holds harsher truths. Fyvie was the youngest ever Aberdeen player at 16, but turned down a new contract to join Wigan Athletic in the summer with little more than 50 games under his belt. So far this season the 19-year-old has earned far more than he would have in a year with Aberdeen, but has had no action in the Barclays Premier League.

Grimmer broke Fyvie's record in 2010 but was signed a year ago by Fulham, completing last season in their academy, having started it in an SPL first team. And last week Fraser, 18, turned down Aberdeen's best offer of a new deal before he had played his 20th game for the club.

Aberdeen have hardly been left high and dry. They brokered the best available deals for Fyvie and Grimmer, a combined £700,000 with substantial add-ons. Fraser may have to be sold in January, though, if they are to avoid losing out on that one.

However, it now appears that Aberdeen supporters will never see the best of their own talent; these players will be taken away by English clubs for which the six-figure transfer or compensation fees and wages five times greater than the SPL average represent what Billy Stark, the former Aberdeen player and interim national coach, calls "a shot to nothing".

Stark said: "If these players don't make it, they are at clubs who can write off all they have invested in them and move on."

Stark has seen all of these players, as well as Scott Allan, who left Dundee United for West Bromwich Albion after a handful of games last season, and Danny Wilson, who was signed by Liverpool as soon as he had made a place in the Rangers first team his own. Both have been loaned out: 21-year-old Allan to Portsmouth (twice) and MK Dons before a single game for West Brom; Wilson, 20, to Blackpool and now Bristol City.

"They should stay where they are and get 100 games behind them," said Stark. "Some would still be teenagers and be in a better position to move, and in a stronger position to get that first-team place. But we're bewitched by the English premier league."

There are also successful trailblazers: Graham Dorrans at West Brom; Robert Snodgrass at Norwich City; James McCarthy and James McArthur at Wigan.

"But they all got over 100 games under their belt and were able to challenge as soon as they went down," Stark added. "You go down then with an enhanced reputation, not some guy who burst on to the scene. Ryan Fraser has the chance to develop immensely at a club like Aberdeen."

Stark has seen the fruit of Aberdeen's academy pass through his Scotland age-group teams, from Considine to Fraser. The recent group, Jack, Fyvie, Grimmer, Fraser and now Smith, Clark Robertson and more coming through behind them, represent an extraordinary achievement.

"We mustn't forget the context of the financial situation Scottish football is in now," he said. "But you don't see that very often, so many good players coming through in a block."

When you do see it, as Aberdeen fans will testify, don't blink. When you open your eyes, half of them may be gone.

In a parallel universe, Aberdeen are putting together a team to light up the north-east, a unit that will provide a line of talent not just to make Pittodrie proud, but to put a bit of red into the Scotland shirt. This is a team built around players not only trained, but born and raised, in the city.

In this utopia Ryan Fraser, the breakthrough player of the season in the Clydesdale Bank Premier League, will accept the offer of a new contract and develop into a Scotland winger in his early 20s, before moving to England and making his hometown club millions. Fraser Fyvie will continue to turn down offers until he has established himself as Aberdeen captain and a Scotland regular, an immediate starter when he finally moves to a second-tier Barclays Premier League side. Jack Grimmer is building on his promise, his talent sharpened by game time in the SPL.

Ryan Jack, 22, is another Aberdonian who fills the stands with scouts. His versatility should not disguise a talent that has taken his game up a level. Around these youngsters from the city are Russell Anderson, Gavin Rae, Chris Clark and Andrew Considine – all Aberdeen natives, and all but Rae products of the youth programme at Pittodrie. Along with Clark Robertson, the Scotland Under-21 full-back and Cammy Smith, the forward pushing hard for a starting spot this season, this city has provided its club with an entire outfield line-up of genuine SPL starters in the past two seasons.

However, the real world holds harsher truths. Fyvie was the youngest ever Aberdeen player at 16, but turned down a new contract to join Wigan Athletic in the summer with little more than 50 games under his belt. So far this season the 19-year-old has earned far more than he would have in a year with Aberdeen, but has had no action in the Barclays Premier League.

Grimmer broke Fyvie's record in 2010 but was signed a year ago by Fulham, completing last season in their academy, having started it in an SPL first team. And last week Fraser, 18, turned down Aberdeen's best offer of a new deal before he had played his 20th game for the club.

Aberdeen have hardly been left high and dry. They brokered the best available deals for Fyvie and Grimmer, a combined £700,000 with substantial add-ons. Fraser may have to be sold in January, though, if they are to avoid losing out on that one.

However, it now appears that Aberdeen supporters will never see the best of their own talent; these players will be taken away by English clubs for which the six-figure transfer or compensation fees and wages five times greater than the SPL average represent what Billy Stark, the former Aberdeen player and interim national coach, calls "a shot to nothing".

Stark said: "If these players don't make it, they are at clubs who can write off all they have invested in them and move on."

Stark has seen all of these players, as well as Scott Allan, who left Dundee United for West Bromwich Albion after a handful of games last season, and Danny Wilson, who was signed by Liverpool as soon as he had made a place in the Rangers first team his own. Both have been loaned out: 21-year-old Allan to Portsmouth (twice) and MK Dons before a single game for West Brom; Wilson, 20, to Blackpool and now Bristol City.

"They should stay where they are and get 100 games behind them," said Stark. "Some would still be teenagers and be in a better position to move, and in a stronger position to get that first-team place. But we're bewitched by the English premier league."

There are also successful trailblazers: Graham Dorrans at West Brom; Robert Snodgrass at Norwich City; James McCarthy and James McArthur at Wigan.

"But they all got over 100 games under their belt and were able to challenge as soon as they went down," Stark added. "You go down then with an enhanced reputation, not some guy who burst on to the scene. Ryan Fraser has the chance to develop immensely at a club like Aberdeen."

Stark has seen the fruit of Aberdeen's academy pass through his Scotland age-group teams, from Considine to Fraser. The recent group, Jack, Fyvie, Grimmer, Fraser and now Smith, Clark Robertson and more coming through behind them, represent an extraordinary achievement.

"We mustn't forget the context of the financial situation Scottish football is in now," he said. "But you don't see that very often, so many good players coming through in a block."

When you do see it, as Aberdeen fans will testify, don't blink. When you open your eyes, half of them may be gone.

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