Mearns youngsters extend contracts for Dundee United

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TWO Former Mearns Academy pupils have signed new contracts with Dundee United, tying them to the Tannadice club until January 2016.

John Souttar from Luthermuir and Ryan Gauld from Laurencekirk, who have both featured in the first team this season, have come through the club’s youth system.

Midfielder Gauld (17) and 16-year-old defender Souttar have also been capped by Scotland’s age grade sides.

Ryan Gauld is an enormously skilful midfielder and made his first team debut as a substitute in an away game versus Motherwell in May 2012.

He has since appeared three times for the first team. A left midfielder capable of using both feet, Ryan has created and scored goals regularly for the Under-20s over the past few years and was part of the Scotland Under-19s squad which won Group Nine of the UEFA European Under-19 Championship Qualifying Round.

John Souttar became the youngest ever first team player at United on January 2 when he started the match against Aberdeen at Pittodrie.

A product of Brechin Boys Club, he has progressed through the youth set-up and, despite his tender years, has become one of the main stays of central defence in the Under 20s. He was called up to the Scotland Under-17s for the 2012 UEFA European Championship Qualifying campaign and was part of the Scotland Under-19s recent training camp in Turkey.

Youth director Steve Campbell said: ‘‘Dundee United have secured two of the country’s hottest young prospects on extended deals, with Ryan Gauld and John Souttar signing three-year contracts, until January 2016.

‘‘Both players have been developed from an early age through the club’s youth development system and their signing indicates the continued determination of Dundee United to develop and nurture youth into first team players.

“It is a massive coup for the club to get these players signed up for the next three years. Both players have the potential to play at the highest level possible and if they continue to develop I am very excited about what they can achieve at Dundee United.

“Ryan is the type of player fans want to watch. Strong with both feet, he can not only set up goals for his team mates but also scores goals himself. Despite his diminutive stature, he has steel and stamina to match his skill and I am absolutely delighted that he has chosen to continue his football education here.

“John is such a mature lad for his age and has fitted into our Under 20s squad with ease despite still being eligible for the Under-17s. His involvement in the first team recently was no less than he deserved and I believe he can be a massive part of the future of Dundee United. He has all the attributes to be the complete centre half and if he continues to work hard he will achieve great things in the game.”

Chairman Stephen Thompson said: “We are absolutely delighted that both these young stars have signed up for three years. This rewards the efforts of everyone involved within our Youth Academy. Ryan and John are the future of Dundee United. They are two of the most exciting talents in the Scottish game and as a Club we must continue to produce this level of talent.

“This club’s reputation for developing and producing opportunities for young players is deserved and with these signings we are confirming our commitment to produce the best possible talent from our Academy and utilise it within our own first team.”