Cameron Harper says the influx of young players into the Inverness Caledonian Thistle first team this season makes him feel like an old-timer.
Aged 21 today, Harper has already made 98 appearances for the Caley Jags in all competitions since making his debut on the bench in a Scottish Cup tie against Edinburgh City four years ago.
He was part of a potential golden generation of young talent who burst onto the Inverness academy scene, alongside Roddy MacGregor and Daniel MacKay, but the production line didn’t end there.
This season, Lewis Hyde has become a regular fixture in Caley Thistle’s squads, while Calum MacKay, Matthew Strachan and Keith Bray have also provided options from the bench.
With other prospects on loan at the moment, Harper says he’s starting to feel like one of Caledonian Stadium’s senior players despite his young age.
“I feel like an old-timer seeing some of the 17-year-olds come to practice and be on the bench,” Harper explained.
“It’s mental to say. I don’t know if I would say that I give them advice, but I will discuss with them.
“I’ve obviously known Dan’s little brother since I was 10, and he was even younger. Matty Strachan too – you could tell them to do some things that will help them.
“I always try to talk to them, but I don’t know if that’s advice. I just try to chat with them to help them relax. It’s what I needed when I was 17 – it feels like a long time ago.
“Just having someone to talk to in the first team, who is there all the time, puts you at ease more than anything.”
Caley Thistle has a budding history of developing players for the first team from his own system.
Ryan Christie made headlines after his breakthrough in late 2013.
He then played for Celtic and Scotland, now plying his trade in the English Premier League with Bournemouth.
Liam Polworth, too, has come through the ranks and now turns out for Kilmarnock in the Scottish top flight.
Dan MacKay has earned himself a move to Hibernian, and Harper and MacGregor are further proof that there is a path to senior football.
Now that the next generation is coming, Harper finds it odd to think of herself as a role model.
“Their career will be
similar to mine, Dan and Roddy’s so far,” he said.
“They will want to do exactly what we do
now – play in the team every week. You know they might look up to you somehow, but you’re just trying to
help them with little tips and give them encouragement.
“They are good players, so I have no doubt they will be able to rise to the occasion when the time comes.
“It’s kind of crazy to think they’re watching me. I still feel like I’m young. »