RICHARD Foster last night slammed Ross County owner Roy MacGregor for refusing to take advantage of the government’s furlough scheme and releasing 10 of the Highland club’s youth players.

And Foster, the former Aberdeen, Rangers, Bristol City and St Johnstone defender, has warned that an entire generation of footballer could be lost to the Scottish game forever because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It is almost a nail in the coffin of these young guys in terms of their football career,” he said. “They are going to find it so hard to come back from this.”

MacGregor told BBC Radio Scotland on Sunday that County had opted not to offer short-term extensions to players who were not going to be kept on – as they were entitled to do after a FIFA ruling in April - and then use the coronavirus job retention scheme.

The businessman, the owner of the Inverness-based Global Energy Group, stated they had taken legal advice and consulted HMRC and the football authorities and described it as “in many ways dishonest”.

However, Foster, who was among a total of 14 players let go by the Ladbrokes Premiership club yesterday, dismissed that assertion and accused County of failing in their “moral” obligation to look after the youngsters on their books during the crisis.

The 34-year-old revealed that he had contacted his local MP, Amy Callaghan of East Dunbartonshire, over the matter and was adamant the Dingwall outfit would have been entitled to utilise the furlough scheme.

“I don’t accept that it’s not fair,” he said. “The scheme was put in place for that very reason. If you look at other jobs where they don’t have fixed contracts, companies have been able to essentially re-employ employees who were recently made redundant to give them an income via the furlough scheme.

“If they were allowed to do that on non-fixed term contracts why then is it such a big deal to then extend the contract of an already employed person, a player? That is what the scheme is there for, that is what the guidance on the HMRC says.

“I have spoken to my local MP Amy Callaghan and she says that is what the guidance says, it can be done. For him (MacGregor) to not believe that’s it honest to me is not really the issue. It’s what can happen. It is written on their website that it can be used.

“It seems strange that he’s willing to say ‘I believe it’s dishonest to be cheating HMRC’ or whatever and he doesn’t want that, but by the same token he is happy to release 10 kids into the wilderness for nothing. It doesn’t add up.”

Foster continued: “I don’t agree with that at all. I don’t see the point in having the scheme in place and not using it. The furlough scheme is in place for us to continue to earn money and they are choosing not to put us on that. That is a decision they have made and it doesn’t sit well with me. It could have been handled better.

“I think they have released 10 of their youth players. They are all 17 and 18-years-old. Now they don’t have a job, don’t have any prospect of getting a job in the next month. I just fear they could be lost to football, there could be a generation that just kind of fades away.”