Kris Doolan insists that Zander MacKenzie can go on to become a crucial player for Partick Thistle one day in the future – but he has zero reservations about throwing the teenager into the hustle and bustle of the Championship in the meantime.

MacKenzie, 17, made his senior competitve debut for Thistle in the SPFL Trust Trophy against Falkirk earlier in the campaign and has featured sporadically throughout the season, often coming off the bench.

The midfielder grabbed an assist in Partick Thistle’s 5-0 thrashing of Cove Rangers earlier this month and Doolan is convinced that the youngster can continue to make his presence felt in the first team – both in the immediate short-term and for years to come.

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“Zander is fantastic,” Doolan said. “For me, Zander is the future of the club in terms of his age but his age doesn’t mean a thing to me in terms of ‘he’s too young to play here and there’. If he is good enough then he can play.

“I have got a lot of confidence in Zander, it’s just about trying to get him in to the team at a time when he will actually learn and develop.

“We want to develop Zander as a player because he has all the attributes to do very, very well for the club and for himself. It’s not just his football, his attitude is outstanding. He is a really good trainer and he has got a great attitude off the pitch in the way he goes about things.

“He is just a fantastic boy to have in your squad as well as a big talent. When you see young players like that, it is about nurturing them, looking after them and challenging them. And the only way they get challenged is by playing in the first team and contributing.

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“You saw when he came on at Cove, he contributes when he gets on the pitch and anytime he has come on he has contributed. He gets treated like a first-team player because that’s what he is to me. He is a first-team player in terms of his attitude, his desire and his talent.”

With the likes of Stuart Bannigan and Ross Docherty at hand to dish out the occasional pearl of wisdom, MacKenzie is not short of mentors to turn to for pointers on how to improve his game.

The pair – two of the most senior players at Firhill – have a wealth of experience that MacKenzie can tap into but Doolan is of the opinion that it takes a village to help an up-and-coming player realise their potential.

“I think it’s important that he surrounds himself with good professionals,” he explained. “If you are going to nurture young players then they have got to be in the right environment and that environment needs good people and good professionals within it to set a good example.

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“Bannigan, Docherty – they are the type of guys playing in the same sort of position as Zander. Zander can play further up the pitch as well, he can play in all sorts of different positions. But he has got good professionals in this squad.

“It’s not just Bannigan and Docherty, there are other good professionals here that he learns a lot from. Some of that is off the pitch – what he has to do to give himself the best opportunity on the pitch. The environment has to be right for younger players to develop.”