THE old adage goes when policemen start to look young, that’s when you realise you are getting old. For Motherwell supporters of a certain vintage though, the same could be said for the Fir Park backroom staff.

The realisation that players who seemed to only be bursting on to the scene not so long ago are now in senior backroom roles at the club may well be a sobering one for a few of the Motherwell faithful.

First, James McFadden was assistant manager before being succeeded by Keith Lasley. Then Stevie Hammell became head of the academy, where he is ably assisted by David Clarkson. All four were part of the exciting young Motherwell side that emerged from the wreckage of the club slipping into administration back in 2002.

These days, while not exactly flush with cash as Scotland’s first fan-owned club, things are on a much more even keel. So much so, that Clarkson marvels at the facilities and investment into the academy that he now helps to run compared to the youth system that was in place in his day as a promising youngster.

The financial turmoil at the club back then hastened the progress of his generation, as manager Terry Butcher had no other choice but to see if his group of talented lads would sink or swim, but he is hoping that the more scientific approach now adopted by the club will continue to bear fruit.

Along with other former Motherwell players such as Stephen Craigan and Stephen McManus, Clarkson hopes that the older generation can repay a club that gave them so much in their own playing days by keeping the Fir Park production line ticking over.

“Things have changed quite a lot since we were coming through,” Clarkson said. “The young boys now get so much help and so much attention.

“There wasn’t an academy when I was coming through at Motherwell, it was a boys’ club really and you came in and did your training. To have this much help available to the kids now in terms of sports science and gym work, there is so much goes into the players that I didn’t have available to me when I was coming through at 13 or 14.

“There’s been a lot of change, even though it doesn’t feel that long ago that we were all starting out.

“In terms of environment, they have so much access to information and other things that can help them progress as a player. At the same time, that might take away that independence that you had from having to go and learn for yourself. We just had to pick things up by playing against older players for example, or just being thrown into those situations.

“I think there is a balance to be struck there, and hopefully I can cast my mind back and integrate some of the stuff I thought worked well for us and marry it to what we have now.”

The well of experience and wisdom that exists at Fir Park can only bode well for the young players at the club in Clarkson’s view, even if he isn’t entirely convinced that the class of 2018 look up to the class of 2002 with any particular reverence. “I hope they would look up to us in a way, but you’d have to ask the boys that!” he said.

“One of the things I spoke to Stevie Hammell about when he took over as head of the academy was that our knowledge of the game and the fact that we’ve played for Motherwell at a good level can help the boys.

“If we can pass that information on then they will hopefully be able to relate to that, and hopefully some of them will think we know what we are talking about because we have been in their shoes.

“Hammy, myself, Stephen McManus who takes the 18s and Stephen Craigan who takes the reserves, up to Keith Lasley and Stephen Robinson, we’ve all played the game. I think that’s a great structure to have, and it’s up to us to try and help these boys.

“It’s the most important part of the club, it always has been, and to be involved in that and to see these boys coming through is great.

“We have some great players in there, but they are still very young, so it is up to us to try to nurture them and make sure that as people, they are in the right mindset and hopefully when they get older, they make that step to getting a full-time contract.”

If they do go on to earn that though, it is far from the end of the road. Clarkson points to the success of those who are bursting into the first team just now as examples for younger players of what it takes to make it, but the entire mission of the academy is not only to produce footballers, but well-rounded people.

“There are loads of boys from Chris Cadden to Allan Campbell and now Barry Maguire that we can point to,” he said. “There’s so many people with great ability out there, but to make it at a club like Motherwell you need the right attitude.

“You have to have that mindset to go out and want it and that drive to make it – it’s a massive part of what we are trying to do. We try to help the boys develop that, and that can help them in life, too. If they have a good attitude and good manners, it can go a long way.

“When we bring people in, we make sure they know what the club is about, and the academy is about. I want the academy to be the best that it can be, and the boys to be the best they can be.”