MORTON have offered full-time contracts to 13 teenagers at a special induction evening held at Cappielow, the Tele can reveal.
Club development consultant Warren Hawke, pictured, and manager Allan Moore made a presentation to the boys and their parents in which they unveiled a new squad structure implemented in order to preserve the club's full-time status.
This new framework sees the first-team squad divided into three categories: eight senior players, eight junior players in their late teens and early 20s, and approximately 12 graduates from the youth academy.
The first two groups will make up the main matchday 16, with the newly promoted youth players initially coming into contention for selection as a consequence of injuries and suspensions, although this could come earlier should they impress in pre-season.
Under-17s Nicky Jamieson, Luke Irvine, Glenn Eadie, Stevie Lamont, Cameron O'Neil, Craig Knight, Jordan Cairnie, Aidan Ferris, Mark Russell, and Christopher McLaughlin were offered terms. Reserves Aidan Fulton, David Verlaque, and David McNeil, an 18-year-old former Kilmarnock frontman who impressed on trial, were also in attendance and extended the same invitation to sign.
The club will now wait on the players to come back to them with their decisions and then hold a formal signing session in the Cappielow boardroom in the coming weeks.
Those who sign will be registered as professionals and will train on a full-time basis as well as being offered educational opportunities and the chance to coach within the club's community programme.
Speaking to the Tele afterwards, Hawke said: "The boys we have offered contracts to won't be signed because we believe they are good enough for the Morton first team - it's because we believe they have the potential to go much further in the game.
"Even though the youth academy has only been running for a year now, we are already seeing the fruits of our labour and huge credit must be given to head of youth Derek Anderson and his coaches.
"We believe we have several players currently playing in the under-17 side who can push for a place in Allan Moore's first-team squad next season.
"Originally, we had intended our new squad structure to be an eight-eight-eight set-up, but such was the quality of this year's under-17s, we couldn't whittle it down.
"To that end we have offered full-time professional contracts to eight of our academy graduates, two players from other clubs who have been on our radar, as well as three current reserves.
"The reaction seemed to be a very positive one and we expect most, if not all, of the boys to sign with us and then begin pre-season training on 24 June.
"They will be referred to as the development squad and will, like the first team, train Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.
"But as the name says on the tin, they will be training morning and afternoon to hone their talent and develop over a prolonged period of time.
"That will mean training independently of Allan's core group of 16.
"However, any boys who are judged to be excelling will be invited to step up and work with the first team."
On the new eight-eight-twelve structure, he added: "That was a policy that was agreed upon at boardroom level as a way of staying full-time and taking the club forward.
"The first group will ideally be experienced pros; the second will be younger players with something to prove who have perhaps been released by SPL sides, and the final 12 are boys from the academy.
"It means that there will be more opportunities for our youth players and shows there is a clear path of progression right through the system to the first team.
"We see the youth academy as the lifeblood of this club, and we believe this method of working will go a long way to securing Greenock Morton's long-term future.
"Morton is an exciting club to be around at this moment in time, and we are confident that the future is bright at Cappielow."