Gordon Young does a lot of talking while he's driving. Over the course of the interview that follows he says more than 8000 words - that's around 70 for every mile travelled as he returns from Cove to his Motherwell home on this particular summer's evening. Not one of them is wasted. The Cove Rangers assistant manager is one of life's thinkers, eloquent and enthusiastic when detailing his footballing travels – of which there are many.

If that reveals a more serious side to Young, he hasn't always been that way. He says events at Dundee United changed him after he was sacked at the end of the 2015-16 season. United were a dysfunctional mess with fading players on big contracts when Young stepped in following the dismissal of Mixu Paatelainen; he steered a ship that was already destined for the rocks to a less ignominious end. He thought he had done enough to be given an opportunity elsewhere but, instead, was cast adrift for six months, “a time when the phone didn't ring”.

The Finn and Young, who had subsequent spells at Falkirk and in the United States, were eventually reunited when they accepted an offer to take charge of the Latvian national team in 2018. With Moldova due to arrive at Hampden Park tonight it seems an opportune time to ask him what it was like being in charge of a European minnow at international level. Considerably different seems to be the answer – where Scotland are concerned with attempting to escape from qualification groups, the smaller nations are now using them as preparation games for the Nations League.

“Latvia looked at it from a realistic perspective,” recalls Young of his eight months as assistant to Paatelainen. “They were not going to get out of a World Cup group against a pot one, two, three or four side. They used the Euro or World Cup qualifiers for experience against the better countries. That has been a change – Latvia's model was to use those tournaments in preparation for the Nations League.”

He recalls that on one of his earliest training camps on the Baltic riviera with Latvia, the players sat behind a curtain during meal times – away from the the top brass – in a throwback to the Communist era. It was an arrangement that the new management duo ended pretty quickly.

“The first thing that Mixu did was remove it, he allowed people to have a glass of wine, depending on what the situation was they were given empowerment, just the chance to be human beings. Sometimes in football, you really are a number on your jersey. There was no communication between the staff and the players about how they were playing or how they were feeling, everything was very dictatorial. Both Mixu and I wanted to change that.”

Two games into their reign, Paatelainen and Young guided Latvia to Baltic Cup success thanks to a win over Estonia and a draw against Lithuania.

“I can't remember much about it because I was very drunk,” he laughs. “I do remember that it was the biggest trophy I have ever seen – it took Mixu and I all of our strength to lift it between us. It's the biggest trophy in the world – it's about the height of me.”

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But just as their plans were taking off with Latvia they ended when Paatelainen was approached by the Hong Kong FA in late 2018 to become head coach there. Young's Latvian adventure continued though. Earlier that same year he accepted the head coach's job at Premier League club Liepaja.

He has documented his time in the country and more than two decades of his life in football – as a coach in the Motherwell academy to his role as Paul Hartley's assistant via spells in India and China and at Sheffield United, Dundee United, Impact Soccer Club in America and Falkirk – in a book, co-written with journalist Stuart Hall, which is due out before Christmas. Young's time at Liepaja is particularly revealing.

“We went from third bottom to third top [in the league] and secured a Europa League spot. The place itself was very similar to Motherwell. It was an ex-steel town, a throwback to the Soviet Union especially in the winter. The city at one point had 80,000 inhabitants but when the steelworks closed that dropped to be about 30,000. When I walked from my apartment, in one direction was a town centre, a beautiful park, the stadium, then there was the beach – but when I walked the other way it was like being on the movie set of a ghost town.

“The club had gone into liquidation and was resurrected in 2014. It was bought over by an oligarch, treated it a bit like a toy, and although I inherited a lot of stuff I didn't like, the thing that ended my tenure was the owner's son, who was desperate to get involved. He was just a young man and he thought it was like playing FIFA on the PlayStation. He was getting involved with agents, he was getting sent players and he made himself head of recruitment. We trained at an old barracks, it was an artillery firing range that was still in use after their independence. They were still using it is a firing range. I think if the assistant had had his way, they would have been shooting at me.”

“They were trying to utilise the African markets and they were sending players in from Ghana and Nigeria. I would come into training and I would find three new players sitting there that I didn't know anything about or didn't want. I would usually evaluate them and then send them back; the next day there would be another three.”

During his time in Latvia, Young used his proximity to a number of east European cities to further his knowledge of how clubs with similar profiles to those in Scotland operated.

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“When you are working away from home you want it to be all consuming. I used to go into Poland, into Serbia. I went to Sparta Prague, Red Star Belgrade, Empoli, I chose to do my pro-licence with Stade de Reims, they had been in administration, they had been in the shadows, it was a top Parisian club so it was very similar to my work with Motherwell. I would never go to Manchester United, Barcelona or Ajax because I'm never going to work at a club of that level. How can I replicate the Carrington training ground at Motherwell? I used to choose my visits carefully. I went to Tottenham's new training ground and left early because I thought there is nothing I can replicate. The only thing I could have done was . . . well, they had a fantastic burger van.”

He estimates he has travelled close to half a million miles since giving up his job in sales for a packaging company to pursue a career in football. For the most part it's been a busman's holiday. He is closer to home, now, but still on the move as those long jaunts to Aberdeenshire testify.

“You are still doing a five-hour commute. Paul and I will talk during the journey. As a management duo, you speak to each other more than you speak to your wife so I tend to use the journey [for that].”

It is testament to the time spent that Young and Hartley have undertaken at Balmoral Stadium that – having missed out in the play-offs last season – they are one of the favourites for the League 1 title this season.

“We came up short last year. Partick won the league, being a full-time club they had an advantage, Falkirk were full-time and had an advantage. We were playing Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday. One Sunday night we were playing at Ibrox and 48 hours later we were back down the road to play Clyde and sandwiched in between that were people's day jobs.”

With his latest car journey nearing its end, Young pauses to reflect on all those that have come before.

“My daughter bought me one of those maps where you scratch off where you have been. I've got a pile of silver paper on the floor. To go from Cambuslang to Kazakhstan, and every country in between, it's been incredible.”