DUNDEE midfielder Lyall Cameron has paid tribute to Gordon Strachan after being named as one of the nominees for the PFA Scotland Young Player of the Year award and confessed he might not be a professional footballer today without the support of the former Celtic and Scotland manager. 

Cameron has performed superbly for the Dens Park club in the cinch Premiership this season and has helped the Championship champions to secure a top six place in their first campaign back in the top flight.

However, a couple of seasons ago the diminutive youngster was not getting any game time at part-time League One outfit Peterhead, where he had been sent out on loan, and was entering the final year of his contract.

He started to think that he might not make it in the game and enrolled in an Open University degree in maths and economics with half an eye on a possible career change.

It has been quite a turnaround in fortunes for the Scotland Under-21 internationalist and he remains appreciative of the backing which Strachan, who is now the Dundee technical director, gave him when he was struggling to establish himself.

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“If you had said I would be in this position last year I probably wouldn’t have believed you,” he said. “I was out of contract and didn’t really know what was going to happen.

“Even the year before that I was struggling and couldn’t even get a game for Peterhead. Quite a lot has changed in the last two years. I am just grateful for that. I think I had a lot of people to prove wrong, with my size and stuff. It’s not easy to be trusted and get chucked in there.

The Herald: “I wasn’t necessarily told I was not good enough. I was just not getting a game at Peterhead. And that is not easy as a young player from Dundee. I was travelling up to Peterhead and I have always been quite confident in my ability and felt like I should have been playing and I wasn’t.

“I had a limbo period between the seasons – Dundee didn’t want me back and Peterhead didn’t want me. I still had a year left on my deal and then we got relegated to the Championship. I thought, ‘It is now or never really’. I went out there and performed well and worked hard and that has got me to where I am now.”

Cameron added: “I picked up a uni course going into the last year of my contract when I was not getting a game. At the start of the Championship I was not playing either so I started doing maths and economics at uni because you never know what might happen.

“I still do that to this day because I believed it helped me going into that season and I am quite superstitious. Then going into this season it has been quite good to get experience at this level and obviously playing in a team that has done quite well has really helped out. 

“Gordon Strachan has been really big in my career to be fair. He is the one that has always believed in me and pushed for me to get games at Dundee so him being at Dundee and being a big figure there has been really important. I might not have been here without him to be honest.”

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Strachan represented Dundee, Aberdeen, Manchester United, Leeds United, Coventry City and won 50 caps for Scotland despite standing just 5ft 5in in his studs during his own playing days. He is not, though, the only small footballer who has inspired Cameron.

“One that comes into my head straightaway is Antoine Griezmann,” he said. “He was told at an early age that he was too small as well. I think it is always going to be a thing, isn’t it? People see your physicality side and automatically it is a cross against your name.

“But I think you just need to prove them wrong and work as hard as the guy next to you and make as many tackles as the guy next to you and try and do well.”