Paterson: Young starlets cured our midfield injury headache

WE have not had our problems to seek in midfield this term due to injuries that have kept Sean Welsh and Isaac Osbourne out for the last few months.

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Young midfielders Stuart Bannigan (above) and Gary Fraser have been playing consistently well for Thistle this season
Young midfielders Stuart Bannigan (above) and Gary Fraser have been playing consistently well for Thistle this season

But in 21-year-old Stuart Bannigan and 19-year-old Gary Fraser we have two excellent players in the middle of the park and they are both guys who, I think, will have great careers in the game.

When you look at their ages and how they go about their business in training and in matches, you have to be impressed by how well the two of them have done.

Nine times out of 10 they have controlled the midfield and for such a young pair to do that shows just how good they are - and can be.

In years to come, they will be top, top players. I would hope that, with the form they have shown, they will be in the Scotland Under-21 squad for the Euro qualifier against Holland in May.

I was a bit surprised Banzo wasn't in the last group, having been named before.

They are both young and have got a lot of promise, and it would be a great reward if the two of them could get into the Scotland squad.

The midfield area has been difficult but all the boys that have played there have done a job for us when needed.

We have been without Welshy for the majority of the season and he has been a massive loss for us.

He has missed a lot of football but I am sure he will come back better and stronger.

We are probably looking for him to get ready for pre-season now and make sure he is fit for next season rather than pushing himself to try and get back in the next few weeks.

Isaac joined us in the summer. He gave us experience and was terrific for us. He then got ruled out for the rest of the season and that was a huge blow.

But Stuart and Gary have come in and played almost every week since then. Their consistency levels have been excellent.

It is great for the club to have two promising young players like that.

Their team-mates know and appreciate the work they do in the middle of the park and can see how good they are.

We know that they can play and see a pass but their workrate and energy is top drawer.

We were delighted to get Gary on loan from Bolton Wanderers during the summer and it was a great bit of business to get him on a permanent deal in January.

I am sure people will have been impressed by how well Gary and Stuart have done this year.

We are keen to hold on to them and help them progress. It would be good for them to stay here for another couple of seasons but I am confident they will both eventually move on to bigger things.

If it does happen we will wish them well and hope they can realise their potential and reach a really high level.

We have them tied down under contract, as we do a lot of the boys, and that is good for the future of the club as we look to keep building and moving forward.


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