THERE may have been times during a tumultuous start to his first-team management career that Steven Hammell has pined for the relatively peaceful sanctuary of his old job, heading up Motherwell’s youth academy.

Not that Hammell was ever one to be able to switch off from that role either, mind you. But having now taken the plunge into frontline management at Fir Park, it was important to Hammell that a project he has poured his heart and soul into for the best part of five years was being left in capable hands.

With the appointment of his old Motherwell teammate David Clarkson, he is certain that it has been. Former Fir Park forward Clarkson, like Hammell, is well and truly in with the bricks at Motherwell, and so recognises just how key the production of their own talent is to the club.

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Motherwell have rightly enjoyed a reputation over the years as a fertile breeding ground for young players, and under Clarkson, Hammell is banking on that continuing well into the future.

“It’s a massive role at the club,” Hammell said.

“It’s something we want to be known for. The academy, in my opinion, is the heartbeat of any good club.

“It’s what we want to continue. When you look how difficult it is to recruit financially, we need to keep producing players from the academy.

“It’s a pressure role that’s so important for the club. Davie has been working with me for the last five years and hopefully he can continue doing a good job.

“All the work you do is in the background. I did it for five years and I’d bump into people who ask me what I was doing and how it was going.

“It was 13 hours a day, every day, pretty much. You are constantly working with players, parents and agents, and everything you can imagine. It’s very difficult to switch off. It’s a role that goes unseen but it’s massive within the club.

“I still keep an eye on it. I pop down and watch games, I am obviously still very close with the staff and the young players there.

“It’s obviously very difficult with the way things are right now but it’s not like I’m away and I don’t care what goes on anymore.

“I put a lot of work and a lot of years into getting the academy to where it is now, and I take pride in that. 

“I feel I left it in a good place. We have some of the best talent in the country in the academy and we’ve worked hard to get it there.

“I’m sure David will continue it.”

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Ironically enough, it was in the emergence of Hammell and Clarkson’s peer group - when administration threw them and young teammates like James McFadden, Keith Lasley and Stephen Pearson straight into the first-team - that much of Motherwell’s reputation for producing young talent emanated.

In more recent times, the likes of David Turnbull, Allan Campbell, Chris Cadden, James Scott and Jake Hastie have made an impact at first-team level before earning big moves elsewhere, and Hammell feels the club are on the cusp of enjoying another golden generation.

“We’ve seen a lot over the years and there’s more to come,” he said.

“Lennon Miller will be a big player for this club, Max Johnston is another one and we’ve used the loan market to benefit us.

“That’s the course we need to take in the short term but the medium and long term future of the club is these kinds of players.

“Ewan Wilson is tracking in the same direction after six months at Albion Rovers. He’s looking very good and will either be involved in the first team in the second half of this season or next season.

“That is the continued development we have here. That age bracket between 16 and 21 is so important.

“We have the reserve league and some clubs have colt teams, but we have to look to exploit the loan market to our benefit.

“Clubs get good talents but our players get first team minutes, and that stands them in good stead.

“All that is stuff that people don’t see but it will no doubt protect the medium and long term future of this club."