Written by Andy (@AndyJr2022) of the MFC Podcast.
While the departure of another young talent was tough to take James Scott’s £1.5m move from Motherwell to Hull City should be seen as yet another great success story for the club’s youth academy.
When the news broke on Friday evening that Scott would be making the move to KCOM Stadium there was a mixed reaction from the ‘Well support. For some, the overriding feeling was one of disappointment as a player that had burst on to the scene at the age of 17 and was in the midst of his first full campaign as a first-team regular had been lured away relatively early into his journey as a professional footballer. Others felt it was a victory for the club, as they continue to thrive under a fan-ownership model, and a demonstration that those in charge at Fir Park will no longer jump at the first attractive offer when it comes to transfer dealings.
There certainly is merit to both arguments.
Scott made just 21 Scottish Premiership starts for the club and found the net on 4 occasions. The last six months of his time at Motherwell were undoubtedly the best at Fir Park, where he showed his qualities to become a regular in Stephen Robinson’s starting-eleven. His form represented a change in fortunes for the 19-year-old, given that in the summer there were suggestions that a loan move may serve his development better, with comparisons being made to the impact of Jake Hastie following his loan spell at Alloa during the first half of last season.
Three goals in the Betfred Cup, including a brace against Morton in front of the BT Sport cameras, got Scott’s season up and running and although he had to wait a while for his first league goal, he did it in style against St Mirren at Fir Park – cutting in from the right and bending a superb effort beyond the helpless Václav Hladký in the visitors goal. The news of Scott’s departure must have been welcomed by our Scottish Cup fifth round opponents, given that three of his four league goals came against the Paisley side and his brace in the 3-0 away success back in December was arguably his best showing in claret and amber.
Hull fans could be forgiven for being slightly concerned at their new signing’s scoring abilities following a quick scan of his goal record but those of us who have watched him over a period of time are aware there’s more to his game than being a penalty box striker As the season has progressed, Scott spent much of his time playing in a wider role where he would drive at defences and link up with the likes of Christopher Long and Jermaine Hylton. He’s raw, but has many physical and technical attributes that lead you to believe that under the guidance of the correct coaching staff then there’s no reason why he can’t go far in the game.
Scott’s move to Hull is the third highest transfer fee received in the club’s history and while it could be suggested that this serves as an indication of the money being splashed out south of the border, it also should serve as encouragement that the fan ownership model is working and of the talent coming through the youth academy.
To operate successfully, it is imperative that Motherwell can produce talent with the end goal of selling them on at the right time.
However, this isn’t always without its frustrations. In the last six months, ‘Well have seen Stuart McKinstry head to Leeds United and Reece McAlear to Norwich City, both departing the club without having played a single minute of football for the first team. Promising young talents that we unfortunately won’t have the opportunity to see thrive at Fir Park. Speaking at a recent press conference, Stephen Robinson spoke of his desire to see products of the Motherwell academy to follow Scott’s route of playing games for the first team before opting for pastures new.
“James is a first-team player now and can go higher,” he said. “But there are younger boys who have left our club that I tried to advise that it wasn’t right to go so soon. And it was the sort of advice I would give my own kids.”
“Unfortunately we’ve been proven right with a few of them. Going down too early can stall people’s careers, or ruin them completely. That isn’t the case with James, but it does apply to others.”
All said, we can now turn our attentions as to who is next to make the step up. Ross MacIver made an instant impact when he came off the bench to score a tremendous goal at Ross County on Boxing Day and he recently put pen to paper on an extended deal with the club. Dean Cornelius, David Devine and Jamie Semple have all had tasters of first-team football and will hope to gain more experience in the coming months. When you add to the mix the influential Allan Campbell, Scotland’s Football Writers’ Association Young Player of the Year David Turnbull, Barry Maguire and Adam Livingstone who are all academy graduates featuring for the top team at Fir Park – it shouldn’t be long before another young star begins to shine for the ‘Well. As supporters we will naturally be disappointed when a talented player heads out the exit door, though given the vast transfer fee received and the continued production line of talented young footballers at the club we should all be optimistic the future remains bright.