IN terms of finding a legendary, imposing, league-winning, Champions League-triumphing, bald Dutch icon to have as your centre-half mentor and inspiration at club level, Zak Jules has pretty much lucked out.

The young defender had not even got round to blowing out three candles on his birthday cake when Jaap Stam, his manager at Reading, held the greatest club trophy in world football aloft in the Camp Nou, the reward for helping to deliver one of the most dramatic finals in not just the history of Manchester United – who of course beat Bayern Munich 2-1 in 1999, but you already knew that – but across European football. Still, it hasn’t prevented Jules from realising the privileged position he has been in to learn at the feet of a legendary Dutch masters from what was a golden generation for the Oranje.

Taken under Stam's wing at Reading, 19-year-old Jules, who qualifies to play for Scotland through his Glaswegian mum, was ushered into the first-team fold, an experience which has made him ready for the next chapter of his football story. Now on loan at Motherwell until the end of the season, Jules is desperate to impress in the new surroundings of the Ladbrokes Premiership, in the hope it catches the eye of his gaffer back home he is so eager to impress.

“He’s been superb for me. He’s worked very closely with me,” said Jules. “As the season has gone on it’s got a little bit difficult because we’ve done so well and we are third in the table, but he’s been superb. He’s very hands on, it’s brilliant. Someone of his stature, to have him it’s amazing.

“He knows more than a thing or two about defending! He’s rubbed off on every defender, not just me. Even the more experienced boys like Paul McShane are learning from him because he has so much to offer.

“I can remember him a little bit. I’m 19 now so I was just a baby when he won the Champions League. He’s played at massive clubs and achieved great things.”

Stam wasn’t one to suffer fools during a glittering career, one that saw him be crowned Dutch footballer of the year in 1997 – not that he had much competition, though eh? – to go along with three Premier League titles, an FA Cup, a Coppa Italia and not to mention an Eredivisie title and two KNVB Cups in his native Netherlands.

It was his no-nonsense approach to play that won him admirers as well as trinkets, and it’s a mindset he is keen to impart on to his young protégé.

“The best piece of advice he gave me was when he first came in. He wanted me to be a little bit more aggressive, that’s Jaap Stam all over,” laughed Jules. “In possession he likes his defenders to be relaxed, composed and able to play the ball out from the back. He’s been quite hands on with me and coached me in that sense.

“It’s all about your mentality. When I go into tackles you have to think what he’d do to me if I ever bottled it!

“He looks intimidating but he’s actually quite a funny guy. He likes a bit of banter and has a few jokes with the players. He’s a nice guy.

“I like to play myself so it’s suited me. When he first saw me training he saw me in the u23 training and brought me straight over. I’ve been there ever since, unfortunately I’ve not managed to make my debut yet but I’ve been with the first team since pre-season.”

His breakthrough in senior football finally arrived on Tuesday night in the modest surroundings of the Global Energy Stadium as a 78th-minute substitute for Stevie Hammell to see out the 2-1 win over Ross County. Already a part of Scot Gemmell’s Scotland U21 squad, Jules is delighted to his whirlwind move to Motherwell has blown him closer to the club’s manager Mark McGhee, who is of course Gordon Strachan’s first-team assistant.

“He’s massive. He’s involved in the Scotland setup and I’ll learn a lot from him. I just need to pick his brains and get as much information as I can,” said the defender.

I want to be part of a group that actually qualifies and does well.

“We have a great group of young players coming up that I played with. I feel in the future hopefully we can be the ones that actually manage to achieve good things.

“I’m very happy to be here and finally get it sorted. It all came about quickly, but I was never in two minds to come up here. I got a call literally the night before I flew up here saying Motherwell had approached the club and they were happy for me to go.

“Jaap Stam felt it was a good opportunity for me to get first-team football. With the fans we’ve got here and how competitive the league is it will benefit my career.”