Dundee United manager Thomas Courts has praised teenage defender Kerr Smith after he was forced to use the 16-year-old in the 5-2 defeat by Hearts at Tynecastle after suffering a family bereavement during the week.

Smith was forced into action when veteran defender Charlie Mulgrew pulled up and had to be replaced at the break and Courts hailed the teen’s “bravery” after making himself available after a heartwrenching week for him.

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Mulgrew had already been nursed through the week before he had to come off at Tynecastle and Courts confessed he hasn’t had his troubles to seek this week ahead of the trip to the capital.

“It has been one of those weeks, this week,” Courts said after the 5-2 defeat.

“Kerr has had a personal issue to deal with, we have been trying to nurse Charlie towards the game.

“Dylan Levitt pulled out yesterday, so we have been chasing the whole week and that’s the way the game unfolded as well.

“Kerr is 16 years old, I’m really proud of him for the bravery he showed going onto the pitch today because he has had a really tough week.

He’ll learn from today, the team will learn, I will learn, and we’ll be better for it.”

With Grant Hanley withdrawing from the Scotland squad through injury, there had been hopes that Mulgrew would take his place and earn a recall to the international fold following an impressive run of form this season for the Terrors.

However, after limping off yesterday, the chances of a late call for the Dundee United star have evaporated and Courts had hoped he would be able to nurse the veteran through the game, confirming that Mulgrew has picked up a “muscular injury”, adding:“It’s a muscular injury, it’s something he felt at the start of the week, we have tried to nurse it from there.

“Obviously we go into the international break so we hoped we could get him through the 90 minutes.

“But it was one of those games for us when anything that could go wrong, did. We couldn’t get that continuity going to get back into it.”

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