WHEN the wind howls and rain batters down on Inverness Caledonian Thistle’s Fort George army training base, Old Trafford must feel a million miles away to Larnell Cole.

Even when the fingers numb and the slog seems thankless, though, the 23-year-old loanee from Fulham still hears the words of Sir Alex Ferguson echoing in his ears.

“Work hard, son, and you’ll get the rewards.”

Reared within the opulence of Manchester United’s youth academy, Cole is beginning to show his pedigree in Scotland’s Premiership. He was outstanding in Saturday’s draw against Hamilton Academical, capping the performance with a memorable goal.

Fergie was the man in charge through all but the final year of Cole’s time with United up to January 2014. Attention to detail in embracing every nook and crannie of the club meant he kept a close eye on all of the club’s young talents and knew them by name.

As he strives to plot a route back to the highest level, the former England under 19 and 20 international attacking midfielder still draws on the great Scot’s words for inspiration. The springboard, he hopes, will be a successful spell with Inverness Caley Thistle.

Since moving to Craven Cottage, Cole has demonstrated a willingness to mix it at a lower level in loan spells with clubs like MK Dons and Shrewsbury, and now Inverness.

But he values, above all, the footballing education he gained at Old Trafford from early schoolboy beginnings. Ferguson, in fact, handed Cole his only first team appearance as substitute in a League Cup third round victory over Leeds United in 2011.

“Fergie was the manager at Old Trafford through most of the time I was there and I had plenty of dealings with him. He was good with all the players, at whatever age,” Cole said.

“I made my debut at 19 under him. I avoided the hairdryer but I saw it! Everyone was so disciplined and he was like a father figure. Everyone knew their place. No one was above anything.

“I remember he spoke to me when he offered me a new contract and impressed on me to work hard and I'd get my chance. That has stuck with me. The grounding and the coaching at United was the best in the world and that also stays with you.

“I believe I can go back to the level I started out at.”

Cole, while happy to be earning a starting place now, was frustrated at Saturday’s outcome which lifted Inverness off bottom spot but made it six games without a win for both sides.

“Some of the football was good but we didn't take our chances and we had some good ones to win,” Cole stressed. “There is pressure on us but I thought we worked a lot harder today. Results will come.”

Manager Richie Foran was full of praise for Cole’s contribution and wants to sit down with the attacking midfielder to discuss extending loan deal beyond January.

“Larnell was excellent against Hamilton. He’s been our best player in the last two matches now so I’ll speak to him about staying,” the Irishman said. “He’s been a big plus for us and he’s low maintenance with an abundance of quality.”

Inverness arrested a run of four straight defeats after Cole’s second-half leveller, but Hamilton – with a 10th draw of the season – kept up their happy record of having lost just once in Inverness.

Ali Crawford’s first-half free-kick scythed past Owain Fon Williams at his front post but the Welsh goalkeeper, in fairness, should have been at home with feet up.

A back spasm would normally have ruled him out but with experienced Ryan Esson also barely fit, young Cammy Mackay on-loan at Elgin City and two other youth keepers injured, Fon Williams put the team first.

Inverness had investigated having the match postponed for that reason, but were told by the SPFL that under the rules one of two 16 year-olds on the books would have to play. Foran was never going to do that, given potential impact a disastrous day could have on a schoolboy’s career and outlook.

Fon Williams, barring the costly lapse for Accies’ 16th-minute opener, was excellent after 48 hours of acupuncture, injections and painkillers for the back problem.

The Highlanders had serious cause for grievance when they were denied a clear penalty after 33 minutes, but were level in spectacular fashion after 51 minutes.

Jake Mulraney worked a 1-2 with Iain Vigurs who laid the ball into the path of Cole. The Englishman’s response was a shot that thundered in off the underside of the bar.

Of the penalty controversy, Daniel Seaborne, the Accies defender, owned up to the missed offence that might have earned him a red card.

“It hit my hand – I couldn’t get out of the way,” he confessed. “You’re obviously not meant to do it but everyone was on the floor and it just struck my hand. It is one of those where, if the referee sees it, he gives it. If he doesn’t see it, he doesn’t give it.