Youth football and development are two key parts of what Motherwell and Hamilton are trying to sell to promising talents. They may be fierce rivals on the park, but off it, they have similar interests.
The pair face off this afternoon at Fir Park as the Well host Accies. Stephen Robinson has the Well in third prior to this game whilst Brian Rice’s side are battling down the bottom.
Both sides have one common selling point though, youth development. Neither of them have mountains of cash, unable to compete with those down south and even some league rivals when it comes to finances.
They are both making a name for themselves as the most promising avenues for young prospects in Scotland. At Motherwell, the likes of Allan Campbell, James Scott, Barry Maguire and David Turnbull are all regular first-team members when fit.
Accies meanwhile have the likes of Lewis Smith, Jamie Hamilton, Ross Cunningham, Andy Winter, and Ronan Hughes amongst those vying for first-team involvement.
For Robinson, he hopes that Motherwell is becoming an attractive venue for young players in Lanarkshire: “We try to give young players opportunities. If I was a parent in this area I’d be looking at clubs and thinking, ‘a good club is where you’re going to play.’
“It’s not about the best training facilities or stadiums in the world, it’s about where you are going to play football. We had five or six boys in the squad against Ross County that have come through our academy and I’d imagine Accies are exactly the same.
“It’s our model, we can’t go and sign players that are already at the top of their game. We have to develop boys so it’s certainly a very good selling point for both clubs.”
Rice reiterates positive youth growth for the likes of Motherwell and Hamilton
Hamilton boss Rice also knows how important youth development is to Accies and Motherwell especially. For one it gives them talent on the pitch, but it also allows them to potentially sell for a big fee.
Young Hamilton for example has been linked with big-money moves away from Accies. It’s a model that helps clubs like Accies remain sustainable and attractive, with Lewis Ferguson, Mikey Devlin, Chris Cadden and Jake Hastie all recent examples of what both Lanarkshire academy systems can provide.
“Some of the players in the first team at the minute at 22 or 23, first-team football is all new to them,” Rice explained. “The Will Collar’s, boys like this. Everything is a learning curve and the best way to learn and gain experience is on the field.”
“You can’t beat the experience of learning on the job. It’s fantastic that they’re getting the opportunity but they’re getting it because I think they deserve it. I see it every day in training, I see what they can be.
“It’s dead easy coming out of big academies where everything is done for you but here you have to muck in. It’s a family here and it’s a massive part of the community.
“What they do with all the charities, youth development… I’ve got first-team coaches here, myself included, and we’re still here at night with the U10s. We’re here all day, all night, because we want to be. To me, the biggest part of a club are the kids.
“They’re the future, they’re the lifeblood of it. We need to be part of them. You can’t be a stranger to the kids, they’re a huge part of it.”
Both sides will always be competing for the pride of Lanarkshire tag, but both seem well aware that getting local youngsters through their ranks is huge for football development in the area.