MOTHERWELL may, as the forthcoming league season will show after it kicks off this weekend, by no means be the best team in the Ladbrokes Premiership. But is there another club in Scotland as adept at producing outstanding young footballers? They are up there with any of their rivals.

Celtic, who have built their multiple treble winning side around youth products James Forrest, Callum McGregor and Kieran Tierney and have high hopes for Karamoko Dembele, Ewan Henderson and Mikey Johnston going forward, have certainly excelled on that front in the past few years.

Yet, their Fir Park counterparts have proved every bit as successful, possibly more so, in turning the raw talents who enter their academy system into hugely promising professional players of late as well. The interest in their players in recent weeks has underlined just how well they have fared.

Jake Hastie, the winger, was snapped up by Rangers are spending just half a season in the Motherwell first team.

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David Turnbull, too, was the subject of a transfer tug-of-war between Celtic and Norwich before the discovery of a serious knee injury in a medical scuppered his move to the former.

It is to be hoped the midfielder, a deserved winner of the Scottish Football Writers’ Association Young Player of the Year award in the 2018/19 campaign after scoring 15 goals in all competitions, gets back to his best after recovering from surgery, moves to a higher level and forces his way into the Scotland side in future.

It is not just kids who have flourished during spells at the Steelmen either. Older players have successfully resurrected their careers after stints in North Lanarkshire and won lucrative moves to larger and richer clubs as a result.

Louis Moult, the English striker who had rattled around the lower leagues in his homeland for some time without making a significant impact, won a life-changing move to Championship club Preston North End last year for a £450,000 fee.

That players of all ages and levels of experience will look to use Motherwell as a springboard to bigger and better things is accepted by supporters, coaching staff and their directors. If they can benefit from their presence for a while and receive something when they depart then they are happy. It is a business model which has served them well on and off the park.

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So it is little wonder that they alarmed, to put it mildly, by the prospect of not receiving a single penny for their former midfielder Chris Cadden. It is a development which every club in this country should be concerned about and wish them well in successfully resolving.

The 22-year-old midfielder has, barring a brief loan spell at Albion Rovers, spent the last 13 years at Motherwell. But his move to MLS franchise Columbus Crew in the United States could see him exit for a nothing.

FIFA categorise all clubs and oblige the majority of them to pay training compensation to the club a player signed his first professional contract with if they sign him before or during the season of his 23rd birthday.

The MLS previously refused to accepted training compensation or solidarity payments. In April they finally relented. But they have not been officially categorised by FIFA and have been given a default Category 4 rating. That means Crew will avoid compensation costs.

It is absurd given the rising standard of that burgeoning league, the international stars who now ply their trade there, the huge attendances and television audiences their games attract and the vast sums the whole shebang generates.

The MLS had no fewer than 14 of their 24 franchises in the latest Soccerex Football Finance 100, a list which shows the wealthiest clubs in the world game, earlier this year. They had three clubs in the top 30, the same number as Ligue 1 and Serie A. Something, somewhere, is very, very far wrong with this scenario.


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The sorry tale grew murkier still when Cadden was loaned out to Oxford United, the English League One club who had baulked at the £350,000 they would have had to pay in training compensation to secure his services, for six months immediately after joining Crew.

United board member Erick Thohir is a former co-owner of MLS club DC United. When he was there he formed a strategic partnership with Serie A giants Inter Milan, who he also owned the majority shareholding in at the time, which saw the “sharing of team”.

It just so happens that current Columbus Crew technical director is Pat Onstad – who spent two years as assistant coach at DC United when Thohir was in situ.

Motherwell would not be at all paranoid to believe that Oxford have pulled a fast one here. They have been speaking to Columbus, the MLS and US Soccer over the matter in recent days. This week they will take the issue all the way to FIFA.

World football’s governing body would do the game they purport to promote and protect a great service by forcing Crew to pay a decent amount to the Premiership club for an individual who has been a Scotland Under-21 regular and was capped by Scotland last summer.

The MLS is only going to grow bigger and stronger – there are plans in place to introduce another four franchises in the coming seasons – and more players from Scotland are certain to be lured across the Atlantic when it does.

If the clubs which have nurtured them aren’t remunerated for their efforts it could cause them to question whether there is any merit in developing their own players.

What would be the point if they are going to go for nothing?