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'We've got to try and stop them'

The news that Dundee United's Ryan Gauld would prefer to play abroad rather than in the rough and tumble of British football was as refreshing as it was unusual.

The youngster will face Kilmarnock tomorrow, and only has to look towards the opposite dugout to find someone who trod a similar path.

When Allan Johnston first flew the Hearts nest, it was for an expedition to Rennes as one of the first Scottish Bosman transfers in 1996. There, he played a season under Yves Colleu - who some years later moved to Rangers with Paul Le Guen - and Johnston has nothing but praise for his time there and no regrets about the choice.

"It was just different coaching, different style of play," he said. "It was a great experience. France were light years ahead of what we were doing here. It was more technical; three of the players I was playing with went on to win international trophies [Sylvain Wiltord, Mikael Silvestre and Stephane Guivarc'h]. There were a lot of good young players coming through."

There is not a bad crop at Tannadice just now either; 17 goals in their last four matches is proof enough of that. Johnston believes they have proven themselves worthy of the hype. "I think they are," he said. "When you look at the front four, the movement, the pace, the end product as well. I'm saying the front four, but the boy [Andrew] Robertson, you need to count him as part of a front five, the way he plays. We've just got to stop that and be a threat ourselves."

Kilmarnock have young talent of his own to shout about, though. Chris Johnston has started scoring to share the burden with Kris Boyd but special praise was reserved for Lee Ashcroft, the 20-year-old who stepped in to shore up the back four.

"Lee has been tremendous," Johnston said. "He's grabbed his opportunity and it's a big boost for the club, along with the other young players. They need to see a pathway, an opportunity to play, and if results aren't going well, then deserve their opportunity. And they've more than held their own."

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