AS the former head of Motherwell’s youth academy, Gordon Young isn’t surprised to see David Turnbull making the step up to Celtic. After all, he’s been knocking them back for years.

Just like Rangers new-boy Jake Hastie and Fir Park midfielder Allan Campbell, Turnbull has resisted overtures from both sides of the Old Firm throughout his fledgling career with Motherwell, placing faith in the philosophy that Young imbued in them from an early age; that it was better to go to Celtic or Rangers only when you are ready.

That has allowed Motherwell to benefit from not only having these young talents grace their first-team - although all too fleetingly in the eyes of supporters in the cases of Hastie and Turnbull – but also enabled them to pocket substantial transfer fees when the players have eventually been prised away.

In Turnbull’s case, Celtic’s bid of £3m has been described as ‘transformational’ for Motherwell by chief executive Alan Burrows, and the fact he has attracted such a figure justifies his patience in Young’s view.


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“Because David’s had a nice upbringing and his family were grounded, they backed me every year when Rangers and Celtic came in, which was on an annual basis,” Young said.

“Hastie is the same. He knocked back Rangers three or four times, and the stick he is taking now is unfair.

“He knocked Rangers back on numerous occasions because his family felt that being at Motherwell was a better way to progress.

“They are enjoying now the commitment they’ve made, and while I used that as a selling tool to bring players in, where they have now gone to is the next piece of marketing; come to Motherwell and look at what can be achieved.

“I would never have it that anyone could come back and say I never told them about clubs being in for them. I always kept the players informed, and the ones that were loyal are the ones who have all benefited; Chris Cadden, Allan Campbell, Jake Hastie, David Turnbull.

“It was my selling point at Motherwell. I’m a Motherwell fan, but when I was competing against Rangers, Celtic, Hearts and Hibs, I had to offer a pathway.

“I always thought it was better to sell them to Rangers and Celtic as established players, rather than them getting gobbled up as a nine or 10-year-old and becoming just another fish in the pond.


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“There’s some horror stories of kids that left at nine or 10 because their parents didn’t see the bigger picture, and it’s the ones who have got a bit of common sense and see there is an opportunity there to be developed properly who will go on and do better in the long-run.”

Identifying which of a talented crop of youngsters is destined for the top is usually an inexact science, but when it came to Turnbull, Young was never in any doubt.

“David was a standout,” he said. “An absolute standout. The best midfield player of his age in this country.

“I used to have some ding-dongs with Mark Wotte when he wouldn’t pick him for Scotland, telling me he wasn’t a six, or an eight, or a 10 in the Dutch numbering system.

“I felt he was that good that a country of our size couldn’t afford not to make him the focal point of their set-up. Forget your sixes, eights and 10s, he was a box-to-box midfielder.

“He reminded me so much of Gary McAllister, because he was different from what we were producing and was such a natural.”

Young understands the frustrations of his fellow supporters about a promising young Motherwell team being broken up, but he is realistic enough to know that the club record fee Turnbull has attracted – if invested correctly – can be the lifeblood that sustains the coming generations through Fir Park.


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“This is the football perch that Motherwell and other clubs like them are on,” he said.

“They aren’t building a team to try and win the Premiership, they’re not building a team that is going to go on a journey, you are building a club that cultivates and nourishes young players with the opportunity to sell them.

“I do get a bit concerned when we lose them early, but I think David Turnbull should have had another 50 or 60 games before now. Maybe his chances were reduced because of the shape of the team and the type of formation the team were using in the last two years.

“I really had a lot of belief in him as a young player, and I thought he would have broken through into the first-team a lot quicker. In fact, when I was at Falkirk with Paul Hartley, we tried to take him there.

“It’s important now that his fee is reinvested in the academy, because that’s the philosophy of the club.

“You obviously have to support the incumbent manager, it’s alright saying you will just put money into the grassroots, but that’s no good if you fall into the Championship and can’t attract the players.

“So, it’s a balancing act, and there should be a healthy split. But if you’re investing in the academy then you are safeguarding the future.”

While taking a quiet satisfaction as his club reaps the benefits of the seeds he had sown in the past, Young himself is now looking towards his own future back home in Scotland after a successful spell in Latvia got him over a deeply disappointing exit from Falkirk.


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“I’ve just come back, I was the assistant with the national team and then I was the head coach of FK Liepāja," he said.

“I’ve just come back in the last three weeks after my contract expired, but it was very good.

“The standard is probably bottom-end Scottish Premiership, and I managed to get them into the Europa League. Ironically, there’s a good chance they could draw one of the Scottish teams.

“All of these experiences are great. I’ve been lucky to have been to India and America and all these other places, and I’ve been able to do a job that I like, so I’ve been grateful for the opportunities.

“I’ve come back because since leaving Motherwell for Sheffield United, I’ve been to India, America, China, and then went to Dundee United with Mixu [Paatelainen].

“The Falkirk thing was a big disappointment because that was the whole point in me coming back from California. That was a three-year plan for development, and when they scrapped their academy it sent out he signals to me they were on a slippery slope.

“It’s sad to see where they are, because they are nice people and a nice club, but you could see the writing on the wall.”